Asian Stocks Climb to Three-Week High as Health-Care Shares Gain

Asian stocks climbed in light trading, with the regional benchmark index heading for a three-week high, as gains in health-care shares overshadowed losses in raw-material producers.

About two shares rose for each that fell on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which gained 0.4 percent to 131.80 as of 4:01 p.m. in Hong Kong. The gauge is poised to slide 4.4 percent this year for its first back-to-back losses since 2002 amid decelerating Chinese growth and a rout in commodities. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.9 percent, with trading volumes 30 percent below the 30-day average, after posting its biggest drop in a month on Monday as the nation’s industrial profits fell.

“Asian markets have looked past the wobble in oil prices and Chinese data yesterday to push tentatively into the green,” Angus Nicholson, a Melbourne-based market analyst at IG Ltd., wrote in an email. “Volumes are very low throughout the region, even lower than the pre-Christmas trade last week, so it is difficult to read too much into them. The major drag on markets today has come from the energy and materials sectors.”

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.9 percent, adding to a similar advance on Monday. South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.1 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index increased 0.4 percent. Markets in Australia and New Zealand resumed trading after a two-day holiday, with the S&P/ASX 200 Index and the S&P/NZX 50 Index rallying at least 1.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 0.4 percent, on volume about half the 30-day average. Taiwan’s Taiex index slipped 0.8 percent.

Celltrion Inc. jumped 13 percent in Seoul, pacing gains among pharmaceutical companies. Toshiba Corp. increased 2.7 percent in Tokyo as the maker of chips and home appliances sought 300 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in credit line to pay for the cost of restructuring its businesses following an accounting scandal. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, fell 1.3 percent in Sydney as industrial metals retreated in London.

U.S. Futures

E-mini futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index increased 0.2 percent after the U.S. equity benchmark index slipped 0.2 percent on Monday. West Texas Intermediate crude slumped 3.4 percent yesterday after rallying 9.7 percent last week. It added 0.5 percent in Tuesday trading.

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