Asian Stocks Head for 18-Month High; Bridgestone Jumps

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index headed for its highest close in 18 months, as Bridgestone Corp. surged the most in four years after raising its profit forecast. Gains were limited on concern China may act to cool the property market.

Bridgestone, the world’s biggest tiremaker, soared 10 percent in Tokyo. China Resources Land Ltd. dropped 4.4 percent in Hong Kong. Nissan Motor Co., a Japanese carmaker that gets 79 percent of its revenue abroad, fell 1.1 percent as the yen strengthened after Finance Minister Taro Aso ruled out foreign bond buying. Gree Inc., a social-network website operator, rose 2.7 percent on a plan to buy back shares.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.2 percent to 133.98 as of 7:28 p.m. in Tokyo, with eight of 10 industry groups climbing. The measure is headed for the highest close since Aug. 2, 2011. The Hang Seng Composite Property & Construction Index dropped 1.8 percent in Hong Kong.

“Earnings have been mixed with auto-related companies doing better,” said Kazuyuki Terao, Tokyo-based chief investment officer of Allianz Global Investors Japan Co., part of Allianz Global Investors which oversees about 302 billion euros ($403 billion). “Stocks may give up some gains as the market discounts expectations for foreign bond buying. Yet, the Bank of Japan will still do aggressive monetary easing once a new governor comes in.”

Relative Value

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 9.7 percent from the start of November through yesterday, led by Japanese shares as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to beat deflation and pressed the central bank to ease monetary policy. Asia’s benchmark trades at 14.9 times estimated earnings compared with 13.7 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.3 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said today that Abe will consider nominations to replace Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa after his Feb. 22 summit with President Barack Obama. Shirakawa steps down March 19.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.3 percent after minutes of last month’s BOJ meeting said the nation’s economy remains relatively weak. South Korea’s Kospi Index added 0.2 percent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.4 percent as minutes of the central bank’s latest meeting said there are indications that lower rates are starting to spur growth. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.7 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.6 percent, the most since Jan. 11. Taiwan’s Taiex Index rose 0.2 percent, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index increased 0.2 percent.

Earnings Results

Of the 340 companies on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index that have reported quarterly earnings and for which Bloomberg has estimates, 51 percent exceeded profit expectations. That compares with 71 percent of S&P 500 companies that topped profit forecasts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Bridgestone jumped 10 percent to 2,820 yen, the biggest gain on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, after yesterday saying net income will probably jump 37 percent to 235 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in 2013 amid a decline in raw-material costs and a weaker yen.

Gree gained 2.7 percent to 1,154 yen after saying it will buy back as much as 1 percent of its shares for 3 billion yen. The company also said it will develop social-network games with Yahoo Japan Corp.

AU Optronics Corp., a maker of transistor-liquid crystal displays, rose 6.6 percent to NT$12.85 in Taipei, extending yesterday’s gain, after saying shipments and prices for larger panels will rise.

Bumi Extends Gains

Bumi Resources Tbk, Indonesia’s largest thermal coal producer, jumped 7.5 percent to 1,000 rupiah, extending yesterday’s 9.4 percent surge. A bid by Nathaniel Rothschild to oust the board of Bumi Plc at a meeting this week may force the company to buy out shareholders in the Indonesian subsidiary, Indonesia’s financial services regulator said.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed. U.S. equity markets will reopen today from a holiday.

Developers fell in Hong Kong after China Business News cited researchers as saying mainland officials may introduce more policies to curb real estate prices around the National People’s Congress annual session next month.

China Resources Land sank 4.4 percent to HK$21.50. China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. retreated 3.3 percent to HK$21.95.

Japan’s Aso said the government is not considering any immediate change to laws governing the BOJ and has no intention of buying foreign bonds through a public-private fund, contradicting comments from Abe.

Yen Strengthens

Japanese exporters fell as the yen gained against all of its 16 major counterparts following Aso’s comments. Nissan slid 1.1 percent to 940 yen. Panasonic Corp., an electronics company that generates 47 percent of its revenue outside Japan, lost 0.5 percent to 664 yen.

Sonic Healthcare Ltd., a medical diagnostics company, tumbled 8.5 percent to A$12.85 in Sydney after saying first-half net income was A$150.6 million ($156 million), falling short of estimates.

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