Japan Stock Futures Little Changed Before GDP Data, BOJ Meeting

Japanese stock futures were little changed as investors awaited gross domestic product data for the world’s third-largest economy and the Bank of Japan concludes a two-day policy meeting. Australian shares gained.

Shares of Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. may be active as the biggest beer maker in Japan by market share said it will buy back as much as 4.3 percent of its shares and forecast profit to rise 15 percent. Alacer Gold Corp. slid 4.2 percent in Sydney as a declined in the price of the precious metal weakened the earnings outlook for the explorer. Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. shares may be active after Southeast Asia’s biggest phone company said third-quarter profit fell 8.3 percent on charges from its Australian and Philippine businesses.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in March closed at 11,315 in Chicago yesterday, down from 11,330 at the close in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 11,320 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.1 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s stock market reopens today while equity markets in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam remain shut for public holidays.

A report to be released at 8:50 a.m. in Tokyo will probably show Japan’s gross domestic product data grew an annualized 0.4 percent in the three months through December, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 32 economists. An expansion would lift the country out of its third technical recession in the past five years.

BOJ Meeting

The Bank of Japan will conclude its two-day policy meeting today. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s call for “unlimited” cash provisions by the BOJ to overcome deflation helped weaken the yen more than 7 percent against the dollar this year, boosting exporters’ overseas earnings when repatriated. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average has climbed 8.2 percent in 2013, compared with a 6.6 percent gain on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, the benchmark regional equities gauge, traded at 14.8 times average estimated earnings compared with 13.7 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.4 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Of the 308 companies on the MSCI Asia Pacific index that reported earnings this quarter and for which Bloomberg has estimates, 53 percent have exceeded profit expectations. Some 52 percent have missed sales projections. That compares with 74 percent of S&P 500 companies that topped profit forecasts during the period, while 34 percent fell short of sales estimates, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Futures on the S&P 500 were little changed. The S&P 500 gained 0.1 percent yesterday to the highest level since October 2007 as investors weighed economic reports and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese shares in the U.S. climbed 0.5 percent to 96.79 in New York yesterday.

Gold slid 0.2 percent to $1,642.10 per ounce.

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