Australian Stocks, Japan Futures Flat After U.S. GDP Data

Australian stocks and Japanese equity futures were little changed after the U.S. economy unexpectedly came to a standstill and the Federal Reserve said it will maintain its asset-buying program.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, slid 0.6 percent as companies tied to economic growth retreated. Pharmaxis Ltd. tumbled 50 percent after U.S. regulators said there isn’t sufficient data to show its drug Bronchitol improves lung function in cystic fibrosis patients. Nintendo Co. shares may be active after the gamemaker increased its net-income forecast.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in March closed at 11,060 in Chicago yesterday, down from 11,100 at the close in Osaka. They were bid in the pre-market at 11,060 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was little changed and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 0.2 percent.

“The U.S. GDP number is surprisingly weak,” said Chris Green, Auckland-based strategist at First NZ Capital Ltd., a brokerage and wealth management firm. “We’re seeing pressure on the pace of momentum of late and therefore we’re a little bit more cautious.”

The Federal Reserve said yesterday it will keep purchasing securities at the rate of $85 billion a month as the economy paused because of temporary forces including bad weather.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The gauge yesterday retreated 0.4 percent from a five-year high, after gross domestic product dropped at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter. The figure was weaker than any economist forecast in a Bloomberg survey and the worst since the second quarter of 2009.

The data came two days before a Labor Department report expected to show employers added 165,000 workers this month, according to economists’ projections in a Bloomberg survey. The unemployment rate probably held at 7.8 percent, matching December and November as the lowest since the beginning of 2009, they said.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average yesterday closed above 11,000 for the first time since April 2010. Equities surged 28 percent from Nov. 14, when elections were announced, on optimism Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government will take the necessary steps to fight deflation.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese shares in the U.S. dropped 0.3 percent in New York yesterday.

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