Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks outside Japan advanced, with a regional gauge heading for a one-month high, as the health-care sector led gains. Shares in Tokyo retreated as the yen strengthened.
Celltrion Inc., a South Korean drugmaker, jumped 7 percent, leading gains in the medical sector. Seek Ltd. surged 18 percent to a record in Sydney after the online hiring company reported an increase in first-half profit and said a unit will acquire a rival website. Bridgestone Corp. dropped 4.3 percent in Tokyo after the tiremaker forecast slower-than-expected full-year profit growth.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index added 0.1 percent to 459.81 as of 4:08 p.m. in Hong Kong, heading for the highest close since Jan. 22. The broader MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed after falling 0.3 percent earlier. Global equities erased 2014 losses this week after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s first testimony to Congress and China’s record lending buoyed optimism in the largest economies.
“There’s expectations for stronger growth prospects for China, driving the market rebound,” Benjamin Tam, a Hong Kong-based money manager at IG Investment Ltd., said by phone. “But having said that, people are still waiting for China’s National People’s Congress.”
Chinese policy makers are meeting in March amid signs growth is stabilizing after signs of a slowdown. Reports this month showed the nation’s exports unexpectedly accelerated in January and new lending rose to a record.
A preliminary gauge of China factory activity in February will be unchanged at 49.5, HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics will say tomorrow according to economists in a Bloomberg survey. A final reading in January fell below 50 for the first time in six months, indicating contraction.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index increased 1.1 percent after falling 0.4 percent, as overnight money-market rates dropped to a nine-month low. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.3 percent, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in the city was little changed.
Taiwan’s Taiex index gained 0.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.3 percent, and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.4 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 0.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.2 percent.
Japan’s Topix fell 0.5 percent today on volume 20 percent below the 30-day intraday average. The gauge rose the most in five months yesterday after the Bank of Japan doubled a growth funding facility.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.1 percent. The equity gauge added 0.1 percent yesterday, climbing within eight points of a record as a $25 billion deal to acquire Forest Laboratories Inc. outweighed slower growth in New York-area manufacturing. Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s January meeting are due today.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rebounded this month after dropping 4.6 percent in January, its worst start since 2009. Shares on the gauge traded at 12.9 times estimated earnings yesterday, compared with 15.6 times for the S&P 500 and 14.4 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Of the 361 companies on the Asian measure that have reported quarterly earnings since the beginning of January and for which estimates are available, 55 percent beat profit expectations, Bloomberg-compiled data show.
Celltrion jumped 7 percent to 47,850 won in Seoul, the highest close since Sept. 13, leading the advance among health-care companies. Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. advanced 3.3 percent to 362.50 rupees in Mumbai after a unit of the company and its partner agreed to settle New York state claims they colluded on generic-drug sales.
Seek surged 18 percent to A$15.70 in Sydney. The online recruiter reported first-half profit increased 65 percent from a year earlier to A$111.2 million ($100 million) and said a unit agreed to buy JobStreet’s online employment business.
Canon Inc., the world’s biggest camera maker, climbed 2 percent to 3,140 yen in Tokyo after announcing plans to buy back 50 billion yen ($489 million) of its shares.
Among shares that fell, Bridgestone sank 4.3 percent to 3,637 yen. The company said yesterday after the close it expects net income this year to increase 41 percent to 285 billion yen, short of the average estimate of 294.8 billion yen from analysts polled by Bloomberg.
Japanese exporters slid as the yen strengthened against the dollar. Honda Motor Co., which gets about 83 percent of sales outside Japan, decreased 1.8 percent to 3,754 yen. Panasonic Corp., which is pivoting away from consumer electronics after record losses, slipped 2.4 percent to 1,147 yen.
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