Asian Stocks Rise on U.S. Jobless Data; Samsung at Record

Asian Stocks Advance to Eight-Month High on U.S. Jobless Claims
A job seeker, right, speaks with a recruiter during a HIREvent job fair in San Jose, California, U.S. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Asian stocks advanced, with the regional benchmark index heading for its longest streak of weekly gains in three months, as fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits and Australia’s building industry shrank at a slower pace.

James Hardie Industries SE, a building materials supplier that gets about 67 percent of sales from the U.S., rose 2.8 percent in Sydney. Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s biggest smartphone maker, climbed to a record amid growing confidence that earnings will increase. People’s Insurance Company (Group) of China Ltd., Hong Kong’s biggest initial public offering in two years, jumped 6.9 percent in its trading debut. Japanese stock futures dropped after Tokyo was rattled by the biggest earhtquake since last year’s record temblor.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.3 percent to 126.08 as of 7:35 p.m. Tokyo time, with about five shares gaining for every four that fell. The measure is heading for a seven-day gain and its third week of advance, the longest such winning streak since the period ended Aug. 17. Signs of recovery in the world’s two largest economies and optimism U.S. lawmakers will agree on a budget deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff have boosted Asian equities.

“We could see a short-term rally, driven by exporters amid signs of improving U.S. economy,” said Masahiko Ejiri, a Tokyo-based fund manager for Mizuho Asset Management Co., which oversees about $45 billion. “This rally may not be sustained. Europe’s problems are likely to persist.”

The European Central Bank cut its growth and inflation forecasts for the monetary union and President Mario Draghi said yesterday the region won’t start to shake off its slump until the second half of 2013, leaving the door ajar for further interest-rate reductions.

China Rally

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average slid 0.2 percent. Futures dropped 0.4 percent in Chicago after the 7.3-magnitude quake struck off northeastern Japan at 5:18 p.m. local time, triggering a small tsunami. Little damage was reported.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index climbed 1.6 percent. The gauge extended this week’s advance to 4.1 percent, the best weekly performance since October 2011, before the release of data this weekend that may show economic growth is stabilizing.

The nation’s industrial production probably accelerated for a third month to 9.8 percent from a year earlier, while retail sales probably rose 14.6 percent, the most since March, according to median estimates in Bloomberg News surveys. The figures are due Dec. 9.

Aussie Banks

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.9 percent, led by the nation’s biggest lenders. Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose added 0.9 percent to A$60.88. Westpac Banking Corp. gained 1.1 percent to A$25.75.

The country’s building industry shrank at a slower place last month as the housing sector showed signs of recovery after the central bank lowered borrowing costs. A separate report showed the trade deficit widened less than economists predicted in October.

South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 0.4 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index advanced 1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 0.3 percent, paring this week’s advance to 0.7 percent.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index swung between gains and losses today. The gauge rose 0.3 yesterday as Apple Inc. rebounded from its biggest drop in four years and investors weighed prospects for a budget deal in Washington to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

Jobless claims decreased by 25,000 to 370,000 in the week ended Dec. 1, Labor Department data showed. The median forecast of 52 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 380,000.

Technology Leadership

Stocks linked to the U.S. climbed. James Hardie gained 2.8 percent to A$9.44 in Sydney. Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest electronics maker, rose 1.4 percent to 827 yen in Tokyo. Panasonic Corp., the maker of Viera televisions, increased 2.7 percent to 420 yen.

Samsung, the South Korean electronics maker that’s become the 15th largest company in the world, rose 1.8 percent to a record 1.48 million won in Seoul. The company’s market value surpassed $200 billion for the first time amid growing confidence earnings will increase.

The rally has been fueled by “bets for global economic recovery, especially in the U.S.,” Chung Yun Sik, chief investment officer for equities at ING Investment Management Korea Ltd., which oversees about $20 billion, said by phone in Seoul today. Investors are “selectively focused on those continuing to boost their market share based on technology leadership such as Samsung.”

Earnings Reports

SK Hynix Inc., the world’s second-largest maker of computer memory chips, jumped 4.2 percent to 25,900 won, the most in more than three weeks, on speculation quarterly earnings will exceed analysts’ estimates. Fourth-quarter operating profit may be 202 billion won ($186 million), compared with a consensus estimate of 147 billion won, Taurus Investment & Securities Co. said.

Of the 598 companies on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index that reported quarterly earnings since Oct. 1 and for which estimates are available, 43 percent exceeded expectations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 15 percent through yesterday from this year’s low on June 4 as central banks added stimulus to spur economic growth. The benchmark index traded at 14.2 times estimated earnings, compared with 13.6 times for the S&P 500 Index and 12.6 times for the Stoxx Europe 600.

Insurer IPO

PICC Group, which owns China’s biggest property insurer, climbed 6.9 percent to HK$3.72 as it initiated trading in Hong Kong. The Beijing-based company raised HK$24 billion ($3.1 billion) last week, selling shares at HK$3.59 each, in Hong Kong’s biggest initial public offering in two years.

“The company has priced the stock at a relatively low level, leaving the IPO investors some room” to reap gains, said Olive Xia, a Shanghai-based analyst at Core Pacific-Yamaichi. “PICC Group also has a good chance in life insurance going forward” if it can improve its product mix and profitability to take advantage of its rapid premiums growth.

Japanese utilities advanced after Kyodo News Agency reported the government may allow nuclear reactors to restart next summer as greenhouse emissions have increased since most nuclear power plants were shut down last year.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the power plant at the heart of Japan’s nuclear disaster last year, surged 13 percent to 149 yen. Hokkaido Electric Power Co. gained 7.7 percent to 844 yen.

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