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Asian Stock Index Heads for Best Weekly Gain Since March

Asian stocks rose, with the regional index headed for its best weekly rally since March, as investors weighed earnings, Ukraine developments and economic data that fueled bets central banks will maintain stimulus.

Parkson Retail Group Ltd., which operates department stores in China, soared 13 percent in Hong Kong after first-half profit beat estimates. James Hardie Industries Plc., an Australian building-materials supplier, slumped 7.2 percent after reporting profit plunged. BHP Billiton Ltd. gained 2.3 percent in Sydney as the world’s biggest mining company said it may announce a spinoff of assets next week. China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest phone company by users, climbed 5.8 percent as it said it will cut $2 billion from device subsidies.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.1 percent to 147.97 as of 4:07 p.m. in Hong Kong after falling 0.1 percent. The gauge is headed for a 2.7 percent rally this week, the most since the period ended March 28. President Vladimir Putin said Russia will do everything it can to stop the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“History tells us not to take these things at face value regarding what Russia is up to and I think we can error on the side of cynicism,” said Tim Schroeders, a portfolio manager who helps manage $1 billion in equities at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. “We’ve seen a myriad of weaker-than-expected economic data from Japan to Europe and even to the U.S. That’s buoyed investor sentiment with regards to maintaining monetary stimulus longer.”

Regional Indexes

Japan’s Topix index closed little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index both rose 0.3 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index lost 0.3 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index advanced 0.6 percent. Markets in South Korea and India were closed.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index gained 0.6 percent to the highest close since Nov. 8, 2010, and briefly rose above 25,000 for the first time since May 2008. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland stocks traded in the city added 0.3 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 0.9 percent.

Russia proposed a cease-fire for humanitarian aid deliveries to war-torn parts of southeastern Ukraine as a convoy of aid trucks from Moscow waited near the border with rebel-held areas. Even as Russia struck a conciliatory note, journalists at news outlets including Novoye Vremya and Hromadske TV reported seeing armored personnel vehicles crossing into Ukraine.

The euro area’s recovery unexpectedly stalled in the second quarter as its three biggest economies failed to grow, underlining the vulnerability of the region to weak inflation and the deepening crisis in Ukraine.

The monetary union’s gross domestic product in the three months through June was unchanged from the first quarter, when it increased 0.2 percent, Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg, said yesterday.

Weak Data

This week, data showed Japan’s economy contracted the most since 2011, China credit growth and industrial production missed estimates, and U.S. retail sales stalled.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.1 percent today. The measure gained 0.4 percent yesterday after a report showed applications for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast last week. Jobless claims climbed to the highest in six weeks, according to the Labor Department.

Parkson Retail soared 13 percent to HK$2.73 in Hong Kong after saying first-half net income was 252.9 million yuan ($41 million), beating a median estimate of 226 million yuan in a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

James Hardie slumped 7.2 percent to A$12.99 in Sydney after quarterly profit fell 80 percent to $28.9 million from a year earlier.

BHP Spinoff

BHP Billiton advanced 2.3 percent to A$39.05 after it said it’s considering a spinoff of assets estimated to be worth as much as $12 billion, as it casts aside operations acquired in the 2001 purchase of Billiton Plc. Directors will consider a structure to focus BHP on its main products, including iron ore and petroleum, when they meet next week, and announce any decisions immediately, the Melbourne-based company said today.

China Mobile climbed 5.8 percent to HK$93.40 in Hong Kong after Chief Financial Officer Xue Taohai said yesterday the carrier will spend 21 billion yuan to offset the costs of phones for customers this year, compared with the 34 billion yuan the company had previously planned to spend. Barclays Plc upgraded the stock’s rating.

Keikyu Corp. added 2.9 percent to 945 yen after the Nikkei newspaper reported the railway company aims to enter casino management in Japan as lawmakers continue to discuss a bill to legalize casinos this year.

Of the companies on the Asian stock gauge that released results from the start of July through yesterday and for which Bloomberg had estimates, 54 percent beat earnings expectations.

The Asia-Pacific gauge traded at 13.6 times estimated earnings at the last close compared with 16.4 for the S&P 500 and 15.1 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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