Asian Stocks Hold Gains After Weekly Advance; Hong Kong Surges

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Asian stocks held gains after the biggest weekly advance since October as a rally in energy shares countered a decline in utilities. Hong Kong shares climbed to a seven-year high.

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. jumped to a record to lead gains in the city on a report the daily quota for buying shares through the Shanghai connect may be boosted. Inpex Corp. added 1.6 percent in Tokyo as crude prices held gains after a four-week advance. SoftBank Corp. advanced 2 percent after a report that SnapDeal.com, in which the Japanese phone company owns a stake, is planning a U.S. listing. Tokyo Gas Co. dropped 3.5 percent to lead a decline by utilities after the Japanese power producer said it missed its full-year profit target.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index were little changed at 152.37 as of 5:01 p.m. in Hong Kong after falling as much as 0.3 percent. The measure jumped 3 percent last week as Hong Kong equities soared and Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average briefly breached 20,000 for the first time since April 2000.

“It’s natural for the market to be a bit volatile when it approaches old highs,” said Andrew Clarke, director of trading at Hong Kong brokerage Mirabaud Asia Ltd. “But it has the potential to go much higher. Right now, Asia has some of the more attractive markets -- Japan, China and Hong Kong for starters.”

Regional Benchmarks

Japan’s Topix index slid 0.2 percent in Tokyo, while South Korea’s Kospi index climbed 0.5 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.1 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 2.7 percent to its highest close since December 2007, as volatility surged and an unexpected drop in Chinese exports spurred bets authorities will increase stimulus to support economic growth. Shipments fell 15 percent in March compared with expectations for a 11 percent decline.

Shares of Hong Kong Exchanges and brokerages jumped on speculation the daily quota for buying the city’s shares through the equity connect may be lifted to 40 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) from 10.5 billion yuan currently, according to an Oriental Daily report citing China-based fund managers.

The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 2.2 percent, while almost all foreign-currency B shares traded on mainland exchanges gained by the 10 percent daily limit.

Better Opportunity

“The investor in Shanghai is realizing that there is a better risk-return opportunity on offer in Hong Kong,” Jonathan Garner, Hong Kong-based chief strategist for Asia and emerging markets at Morgan Stanley, said in a phone interview. “We now see a greater likelihood of the Hang Seng’s valuation converging with its own long run average. The catalyst is the inflow from the Shanghai investor via the connect program.”

Japan’s economy has continued its moderate recovery trend, according to the text of Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s speech to a quarterly regional branch managers’ meeting in Tokyo on Monday. Japan’s machinery orders slipped 0.4 percent in February from the prior month, compared with the 2.2 percent decline forecast by economists, a report showed.

E-mini futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 0.2 percent. The underlying gauge climbed 0.5 percent on Friday, extending its advance for the week to 1.7 percent. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Johnson & Johnson and Intel Corp. are among S&P 500 members reporting quarterly results this week.

West Texas Intermediate oil for May delivery gained 2.2 percent to $52.79 as resistance from U.S. lawmakers over a nuclear deal undermined prospects Iran will bolster crude exports.

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