Asian Stocks Advance for Fourth Week on U.S. Jobs, BOJ

Asian stocks rose for a fourth week, the longest streak of gains this year, as U.S. jobs data beat estimates and the Japanese parliament approved Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nominees to the central bank board.

Nissan Motor Co. advanced 2.4 percent, leading gains among companies that get sales in the U.S. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest publicly traded bank, rose 7.7 percent amid speculation Abe will implement policies to stimulate the economy and end 15 years of falling prices. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. fell 7.6 percent, relinquishing its place as Asian’s biggest developer by value, as Hong-Kong-listed real estate companies tumbled on concern policy makers are stepping up efforts to cool home prices and as local mortgage rates were increased.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.8 percent to 136.66. The gauge has climbed 5.6 percent this year as data signaled the world’s biggest economy is recovering and investors bet the Bank of Japan will loosen monetary policy. Chinese shares fell this week amid concern about government efforts to control prices.

The U.S. jobs data “has shown the world’s largest economy is really starting to gain momentum and, of course, that’s all positive for financial markets,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research in Sydney at Perpetual Investments, which manages about $25 billion. “The biggest part of the global economy, namely the U.S., is doing well and continues to do well, whereas there’s a small question mark over China. That’s containing the rally.”

Relative Value

Gains in 2013 left the MSCI Asia Pacific Index trading at 14.9 times average estimated earnings compared with 14.1 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.8 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average increased 2.3 percent for the week to the highest level since September 2008. Haruhiko Kuroda, an advocate of aggressive monetary policy easing, was confirmed as Bank of Japan governor yesterday by parliament’s upper house, along with deputy governor nominees Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso. Current chief Masaaki Shirakawa and his deputies step down on March 19.

Mitsubishi UFG, Japan’s largest publicly traded lender, gained 7.7 percent to 576 yen. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. added 4.3 percent to 4,045 yen. Mitsubishi Estate Co. climbed 5.4 percent to 2,796 yen, overtaking Sun Hung Kai as the biggest developer in Asia by value.

U.S. Jobs

First-time jobless claims in the U.S. fell by 10,000 to 332,000 in the week ended March 9, the fewest since mid-January, according to data March 14 from the Labor Department in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 350,000. Separate Commerce Department figures showed a 1.1 percent advance in U.S. retail sales in February, more than forecast.

Nissan, the carmaker that gets 80 percent of sales in the U.S., advanced 2.4 percent to 985 yen. Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker, climbed 2.2 percent to 5,020 yen. Honda Motor Co. gained 4.4 percent to 3,820 yen.

Kubota Corp. added 6.9 percent to 1,314 yen after President Yasuo Masumoto said a weaker yen will push sales at the farm-tractor maker to a record 1.4 trillion yen ($14.6 billion) next fiscal year, 13 percent more than the mean of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose for a fourth week, adding 0.8 percent to a record, after central bank Governor Graeme Wheeler pledged to keep borrowing costs at a record low until next year. Xero Ltd., which offers online accounting software, jumped 18 percent to NZ$10.70, leading gains on the benchmark.

Australia, Singapore

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and Singapore’s Straits Times Index both slipped 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index dropped 1 percent and Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 1.1 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 2.4 percent, led by property developers, as data showed China’s consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in 10 months and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said monetary policy is “no longer relaxed.” Only Italy’s FTSE MIB Index has offered lower returns this year among 24 developed market benchmarks monitored by Bloomberg.

Sun Hung Kai tumbled 7.6 percent to HK$106.20, the lowest level since October. New World Development Co., controlled by billionaire Cheng Yu-tung, dropped 5.2 percent to HK$13.26.

China is set to complete a once-a-decade handover of power at the National People’s Congress in Beijing that ends March 17. Leaders are trying to support a rebound in growth from a 13-year low without spurring excessive inflation or risks in the financial system. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 1.7 percent this week.

China Resources Land Ltd., a property company that gets all its revenue from the mainland, slid 8.1 percent to HK$19.40. China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd., the biggest mainland real-estate company traded in Hong Kong, slid 3.8 percent to HK$21.55. Guangzhou R&F Properties Ltd., a builder in the southern Chinese city, retreated 4.3 percent to HK$11.60.

Haier Electronics Group Co. slumped 17 percent to HK$11.22 amid concern about the termination of its joint venture with Argos, a unit of U.K.-based Home Retail Group Plc. The share-price decline is overdone, according to Kim Eng Securities analyst Alex Yeung.