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Japan Stock Futures Little Changed Before Bernanke Speech

Japanese and Australian stock futures were little changed as investors await a U.S. growth report today and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s speech on the economy at the end of the week.

American depositary receipts of BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, lost 0.7 percent as metal prices retreated yesterday. ADRs of Sharp Corp. slid 0.3 percent after the Japanese electronics maker said it plans to book a 27 billion yen ($344 million) cost to fire about 2,000 workers. Renesas Electronics Corp. shares may move after the Nikkei reported that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. will spend 100 billion yen buying new shares of the chipmaker.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring next month closed at 9,045 in Chicago yesterday, down from 9,050 in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 9,040 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Futures on Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.1 percent today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.2 percent in Wellington.

“Bernanke’s probably going to hold fire here, while sending an encouraging message,” said Angus Gluskie, managing director at White Funds Management in Sydney who manages more than $350 million. “Realistically we’re probably going to see him say what he’s said over the last couple of months, which is simply that they will act, but only if conditions continue to deteriorate. That’s probably neutral for the market.”

Gluskie and Pacific Investment Management Co. Chief Executive Officer Mohamed El-Erian are among money managers speculating Bernanke probably won’t provide specific plans for further monetary action at an annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this week. El-Erian spoke yesterday on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop” with Betty Liu.

Stimulus Needed

The Fed signaled last week it’s ready to take further steps to spur the economy. Many policy makers said additional stimulus probably will be needed soon unless the economy shows signs of a durable pickup, according to minutes released Aug. 22 of the central bank’s most recent meeting.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.1 percent today. The underlying gauge slid 0.1 percent yesterday as a report showed that confidence among U.S. consumers fell in August by the most in 10 months. Home prices in 20 U.S. cities climbed in June from a year earlier, the first gain in almost two years, indicating the market that triggered the recession is beginning to rebound.

The Commerce Department’s first revision to U.S. second-quarter gross domestic product today may show an expansion of 1.7 percent compared with an initially reported 1.5 percent increase, according to median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The economy grew 2 percent in the first three months of the year.

Asia Rally

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rallied 9.4 percent from this year’s lowest level through yesterday amid speculation global central banks will act to stimulate economic growth. Still, the gauge was 7.5 percent below its high on Feb. 29 amid concern expansion in economies from China to the U.S. is slowing.

Stocks on Asia’s benchmark index were valued at 12.4 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.7 for the S&P 500 and 11.6 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The London Metals Exchange Index of six industrial metals slid 0.5 percent yesterday in London.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese companies in the U.S. rose 0.5 percent to 89.48.

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