Asian stocks gained, with the regional benchmark index headed for its highest close in two weeks, on signs the U.S. jobs markets is stabilizing and Chinese manufacturing is recovering.
BHP Billiton Ltd., a mining company that counts China as its biggest market, gained 1 percent in Sydney. Honda Motor Co., a Japanese carmaker that gets about 44 percent of sales from North America, climbed 3.5 percent as the weakened yen and U.S. claims for jobless benefits fell. Sharp Corp. advanced 4.3 percent after Japan’s largest maker of liquid-crystal displays said it has found customers for panels used in smartphones.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.9 percent to 122.05 as of 9:15 p.m. in Tokyo, heading for its highest close since Nov. 7. More than two shares rose for each that fell on the gauge. The measure is poised for its first weekly advance in three weeks on the back of a surge in Japanese shares and as data on China manufacturing and U.S. jobs added to signs the world’s two largest economies are on the mend.
“There could be a third-consecutive monthly increase in global manufacturing,” said Mark Matthews, Singapore-based head of research at Bank Julius Baer & Co., which manages about $199 billion. “That would support risk appetite. We’re left with an environment of low interest rates. Probably we’re seeing the end of the retracement since September.”
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 1.6 percent to the highest close in more than six months, as the yen weakened past 82 to the dollar for the first time since April. A weaker currency boosts the value of overseas income at Japanese companies when repatriated.
The benchmark index has risen 8.1 percent since Nov. 14 when Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called for elections that polls show the opposition party Liberal Democratic Party, which advocates more aggressive monetary easing, is likely to win.
“The market has momentum,” said Mitsushige Akino, Tokyo-based chief fund officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co., which oversees about 30 billion yen ($364 million). “The yen may weaken to the 85-yen level against the dollar as expectations build that the Liberal Democratic Party will take power after next month’s elections.”
South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.8 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index both gained 1 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.7 percent.
Companies that do business with China gained. The nation’s manufacturing may expand for the first time in 13 months in November, according to a preliminary survey released today by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics.
BHP rose 1 percent to A$33.69 in Sydney. Samsung Electronics Co., which counts China as its biggest market, increased 2.4 percent to 1.417 million won in Seoul. NTN Corp. soared 15 percent to 172 yen in Tokyo after Credit Suisse Group AG said the bearing maker will benefit from recovery in China.
Chinese carmakers, construction companies and energy firms advanced. Dongfeng Motor Group Co., which has joint ventures with France’s Peugeot SA and South Korea’s Kia Motors Corp., jumped 4.3 percent to HK$10.58.
Yanzhou Coal Mining Co., a mainland fuel producer that owns assets in Australia, climbed 1.1 percent to HK$11.54. Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co., a maker of cranes, increased 1.3 percent to HK$9.70.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.4 percent today. The measure rose 0.2 percent yesterday in New York as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor said.
Exporters to the U.S. advanced as the yen touched a seven-month low against the dollar. Honda jumped 3.5 percent 2,750 yen. Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker, gained 2.3 percent to 3,515 yen.
James Hardie Industries SE, the building materials supplier that counts the U.S. as its top market, added 1.1 percent to A$8.91 in Sydney. The stock has gained 31 percent this year amid signs the U.S. housing market is recovering.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 12 percent from this year’s low on June 4 through yesterday as central banks added stimulus to spur economic growth and data showed a slowdown in China may be ending. The Asian benchmark traded at 13.6 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.4 for the S&P 500 and 12.2 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
Sharp rose 4.3 percent to 171 yen in Tokyo. Other electronics makers will probably begin selling mobile products featuring the company’s IGZO display panels starting in the first three months of 2013, a senior Sharp executive said yesterday at a briefing in Osaka, given on condition of anonymity. The executive declined to name customers or say whether the products are smartphones or tablets.
Bank of the Philippine Islands climbed 1.8 percent to 90 pesos, the highest close since at least January 1990, after saying it’s in talks with the Lucio Tan Group for a merger with Philippine National Bank that could create the country’s biggest lender by assets.