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Japan Stock Futures Little Changed on Jobless Claims, Earnings

Japanese stock futures were little changed after U.S. jobless claims dropped while Fast Retailing Co.’s profit forecast added to concern a global economic slowdown is weighing on earnings. Australian equities opened little changed.

American depositary receipts of carmaker Honda Motor Co., which gets 44 percent of its sales in North America, rose 1.3 percent from the closing share price in Tokyo. Billabong International Ltd. may be active when it resumes trading at 11 a.m. in Sydney after TPG International LLC withdrew a bid for the global surfwear maker. Shares of Softbank Corp, Japan’s third-largest mobile-phone company, may be active on its possible investment in Sprint Nextel Corp.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in December closed at 8,580 in Chicago yesterday compared with 8,550 in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 8,570 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose less than 0.1 percent today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.1 percent in Wellington.

“The market has been directionless,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which has almost $100 billion under management. “We saw a nice rally going into September on the back of policy action in Europe and the U.S. and now we are looking for the follow through.”

Stimulus Impact

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 5.7 percent this year through yesterday as central banks from Europe to the U.S. and Japan took stimulus measures to counter a global economic slowdown and the European debt crisis. The Asian benchmark traded at 12.7 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.7 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.1 percent today after the index closed little changed in New York yesterday.

First-time applications for jobless benefits dropped 30,000 to 339,000 last week, the fewest since February 2008, Labor Department figures showed yesterday. Economists forecast 370,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. One state accounted for most of the plunge in claims, a Labor Department spokesman said.

“We’ve seen that drop in jobless claims in the U.S., but it looks largely due to one state,” Oliver at AMP Capital said. “It’s not as reliable as it is in a normal case. The market gave up most of the gain.”

Profit Forecast

Fast Retailing Co., which sells Uniqlo branded apparel in Japan, forecast annual profit below analyst estimates as a slowdown in global economic growth reduces consumer spending.

Softbank, Japan’s third-largest mobile-phone company, is seeking control of Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese companies in the U.S. surged 1.5 percent to 93.62 yesterday in New York.

China’s biggest banks are resisting government pressure to lower borrowing costs amid an economic slowdown as they seek to maintain the profitability of their lending operations, officials at the top four lenders said.

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