Asian Stocks Advance as Nikkei 225 Recoups Lehman Losses

Asian stocks gained, with the regional benchmark index headed for the highest close since August 2011 amid signs the global economy is recovering. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average erased losses from the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Honda Motor Co., which gets 44 percent of its car sales from North America, climbed 2.7 percent in Tokyo after U.S. jobless claims fell and a weaker yen boosted the earnings outlook for Japanese exporters. Sekisui House Ltd. jumped 15 percent after the Japanese builder forecast a rise in profit. Rio Tinto Group gained 1.8 percent in Sydney after the world’s second-biggest mining company reopened its coal project in Mozambique.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.5 percent to 135.92 as of 9:31 p.m. in Tokyo, with almost three shares rising for each that fell. The gauge is poised for a 0.9 percent gain this week, as economic data from the U.S. and China showed signs of recovery. The Nikkei 225 capped its biggest weekly advance this year amid speculation the central bank will stimulate growth.

“The GDP data in Japan provides a good start for the future,” said Mikio Kumada, a Hong Kong-based global strategist for LGT Capital Partners, which oversees more than $20 billion. “We know that Japan is going to have an aggressive monetary policy and China’s economy is bottoming out too, so it’s all good for the outlook.”

Japan Rally

Japan’s Nikkei 225 climbed 2.6 percent to the highest close since before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008. The gauge had its biggest weekly advance since December 2011 after the yen slid to a 3 1/2-year low and revised fourth-quarter gross domestic product figures showed the economy exited recession. A weaker yen boosts the value of the nation’s exports when repatriated.

“There’s a lot of expectations Japan will be quite aggressive in stimulating the economy,” said Belinda Allen, a senior investment analyst at Colonial First State Global Asset Management in Sydney, which oversees about $145 billion. “There’s a few more catalysts in the U.S. for the market to rally compared to Asia.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advanced 1.4 percent, while Taiwan’s Taiex Index gained 0.7 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.5 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index added 0.1 percent.

Chinese Exports

China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2 percent. The nation’s exports exceeded forecasts in February, an indication that improving global demand may help sustain the rebound in the world’s second-biggest economy.

The country’s exports increased 21.8 percent in February from a year earlier, the customs administration said today in Beijing. That compares with the median estimate for an 8.1 percent gain in a Bloomberg News survey of 33 analysts and a 25 percent increase the previous month. Imports fell 15.2 percent, almost double the 8.5 percent drop forecast by analysts.

Shares on the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index traded at 15 times estimated earnings compared with 13.9 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.6 for the Stoxx Europe 600, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

U.S. Jobs

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.3 percent today. The U.S. equity gauge gained 0.2 percent yesterday and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to another record as the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell to a six-week low.

A U.S. Labor Department report due today may show private payrolls rose by 170,000 last month, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Exporters advanced. Honda climbed 2.7 percent to 3,660 yen in Tokyo. Nintendo Co., a maker of game consoles that gets 39 percent of sales in the Americas, jumped 8 percent to 10,370 yen. Li & Fung Ltd., a supplier of toys and clothes to retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., rose 1.5 percent to HK$10.98 in Hong Kong.

Sekisui House Soars

Sekisui House jumped 15 percent to 1,245 yen in Tokyo, its biggest gain in 22 years, after saying net income will rise 36 percent in the year beginning in April.

Fast Retailing Co., Asia’s biggest clothier, jumped 9.8 percent to a record close of 31,500 yen in Tokyo. The stock surged 24 percent this week after the company reported same-store sales at its Uniqlo chain in Japan improved.

Japan’s energy companies after broadcaster NHK reported government plans to extract methane hydrate off the coast of central Aichi prefecture.

Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. advanced 8.5 percent to 4,165 yen. Inpex Corp., the nation’s biggest energy explorer, rose 2.8 percent to 514,000 yen. Japan Drilling Co. surged 17 percent to 4,780 yen.

Rio Tinto gained 1.8 percent to A$64.36 in Sydney. The company reopened its coal mines in Mozambique as rail services resumed.

Property Stocks

Singapore developers dropped on speculation the government will introduce additional measures to cool the housing market. CapitaLand Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest property company, sank 2.4 percent to S$3.64. City Developments Ltd. declined 2.1 percent to S$11.16.

Along with Hong Kong and China, Singapore has been grappling with a surge in housing prices fueled by low interest rates and capital inflows that drive up demand and make housing unaffordable.

“Whatever the governments do, doesn’t seem to cool the property market,” said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets in Singapore. “Tightening measures are on the cards as housing prices stay at elevated levels.”

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