Australian Stocks Near 4 Year High, Japan Futures Little Changed

Japanese stock futures were little changed and Australian equities traded near the highest level in more than four years as investors awaited minutes from recent meetings at the Bank of Japan and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Gree Inc. may climb after the game-site operator headed by Japan’s youngest billionaire said it will buy back as much as 1 percent of its stock. APN News & Media Ltd. slumped 12 percent in Sydney after its chairman and chief executive officer resigned in a dispute with the publisher’s largest shareholder over plans to sell stock and reduce debt. Bridgestone Corp. shares may move in Tokyo as it forecast sales and profit above analyst estimates. Asciano Ltd. gained 4 percent as profit at the Australian transport services provider increased.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring next month closed at 11,400 in Chicago yesterday, down from the 11,410 closing level yesterday in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 11,410 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was little changed and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.2 percent.

“The central bank minutes will be very interesting,” said Evan Lucas, Melbourne-based market strategist at IG Markets Ltd., a provider of trading services. “The fear of missing out on this rally is overtaking.”

Japan and Australia are the two best-performing developed equity markets in Asia, with the Nikkei 225 Stock Average gaining 9.7 percent this year through yesterday. The S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 8.9 percent in 2013 through yesterday, closing at the highest level since Sept. 8, 2008.

Bank Minutes

The Bank of Japan is scheduled to release at 8:50 a.m. in Tokyo minutes of its January meeting when the bank agreed to set a 2 percent inflation target and start open-ended asset purchases in 2014. The Reserve Bank of Australia will post minutes from its February meeting at 11:30 a.m. Sydney time. The Australian central bank will keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at next month’s meeting, according to economists forecast by Bloomberg.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, the benchmark regional equities gauge, traded at 14.8 times average estimated earnings compared with 13.7 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.3 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Of the 337 companies on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index that have reported quarterly earnings and for which Bloomberg has estimates, 51 percent exceeded profit expectations. That compares with 71 percent of S&P 500 companies that topped profit forecasts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed. U.S. equity markets will reopen today after the Presidents’s Day Holiday.

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