Japanese Stock Futures Rise on Yen, U.S. Jobless Claims

Japanese stock futures and Australian shares rose as the yen weakened against the dollar, U.S. jobless claims unexpectedly fell and an index of leading economic indicators increased, signaling continued growth in the world’s largest economy.

American Depositary Receipts of Nissan Motor Co., which gets about 80 percent of sales overseas, climbed 2.2 percent as the yen’s weakness boosted the earnings outlook. Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. surged 11 percent in Sydney after the explorer said it discovered gas in Brazil. ResMed Inc. climbed 5.6 percent after earnings at the medical equipment maker topped estimates.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in March closed at 10,820 in Chicago yesterday, up from 10,630 at the close in Osaka. They were bid in the pre-market at 10,820 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.3 percent to the highest level since May 2011. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 0.1 percent.

“Continued flow of positive economic data and the impact that’s having in attracting money flows into equity markets is the biggest factor at the moment,” said Angus Gluskie, managing director at Sydney-based White Funds Management, which oversees more than $350 million. “Investors are increasingly prepared to push valuations up amid prospects for earnings reratings.”

Most U.S. stocks rose yesterday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index briefly topping 1,500, as an unexpected drop in jobless claims and better-than-forecast earnings from Netflix Inc. and Xerox Corp. offset the worst slump for Apple Inc. in four years. Futures on the S&P 500 Index fell 0.2 percent.

Profit Forecasts

Some 75 percent of the 134 companies in the S&P 500 that have released results so far exceeded profit projections, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Analysts on average forecast growth of 3.8 percent in fourth-quarter profit, the data show.

Claims for jobless benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped last week. Applications for unemployment payments decreased to 330,000 in the week ended Jan. 19, compared with the median forecast of 355,000 claims. A separate release showed the index of leading economic indicators, a gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months, climbed 0.5 percent last month.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 23 percent since elections were announced on Nov. 14 amid optimism Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government will take steps to fight deflation and weaken the currency. The yen traded at 90.34 per dollar at 8:05 a.m. in Tokyo.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese shares in the U.S. dropped 0.7 percent to 100.53 in New York yesterday.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, the benchmark regional equities gauge, traded at 14.1 times average estimated earnings compared with 13.5 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.2 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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