Asian Stocks Advance on U.S. Jobless Claims, BOJ Governor

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index poised to advance for a fourth week, after U.S. jobless claims unexpectedly dropped and Japan’s upper house confirmed Haruhiko Kuroda as central bank governor.

Honda Motor Co., a Japanese carmaker that gets 44 percent of sales from North America, gained 2.6 percent. Sony Corp. surged 11 percent in Tokyo after Daiwa Securities Group Inc. recommended buying shares of the consumer electronics maker. BYD Co., the Chinese automaker partially owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., tumbled 7.8 percent as the company is said to be planning to sell as much as 20 percent of its Hong Kong-traded shares.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.5 percent to 136.02 as of 7:34 p.m. Tokyo time, with about five shares rising for every four that fell. The gauge is heading for a 0.3 percent advance this week as accelerating U.S. retail sales and a decline in weekly jobless claims added to signs the world’s biggest economy is recovering.

“There’s a level of confidence to say that the economic momentum, albeit tepid, is still positive,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage $1 billion at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. “That supports an asset allocation move out of bonds and into equities. China remains a risk, with increasing concerns about bubbles developing in the property market.”

This week’s gain on the Asian benchmark has been limited by data that showed China’s consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in 10 months, with People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan saying monetary policy is “no longer relaxed.”

BOJ Leadership

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average increased 1.5 percent to the highest close since September 2008. Kuroda, an advocate of aggressive monetary easing, was confirmed as Bank of Japan governor today by parliament’s upper house, along with deputy governor nominees Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso. Governor Masaaki Shirakawa and his deputies step down on March 19.

There’s talk of a possible emergency meeting for the BOJ, said Kenichi Kubo, a senior fund manager at Tokio Marine Asset Management Co., which oversees about $52 billion. “If it happens, it could introduce drastic measures,” he said. The central bank’s next policy meeting is scheduled for April 3-4.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 4.6 percent this year through yesterday as central banks around the world maintained loose monetary policies to stimulate the global economy and Japanese shares rallied on speculation Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will step up efforts to revive economic growth. Shares on the gauge traded at 14.8 times estimated earnings compared with 14 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.7 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.1 percent to a record close. The gauge rose a fourth straight week after central bank Governor Graeme Wheeler pledged to keep borrowing costs at a record low until next year. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 1.8 percent, the most since July 19. The Jakarta Composite climbed 0.7 percent.

China Shares

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4 percent, extending gains for a second day. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.4 percent, posting its first weekly decline in three weeks as developers retreated after banks raised mortgage rates. Taiwan’s Taiex Index lost 0.3 percent, erasing an advance of 0.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index dropped 0.8 percent after gaining as much as 0.4 percent.

Futures on the S&P 500 Index slid 0.1 percent today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday extended the longest rally since 1996 as reports showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in almost two months and confidence among U.S. consumers increased for a sixth straight week.

‘Growing Optimism’

“Growing optimism about the U.S. economy pushes markets up, even though concerns about China continue to linger,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research in Sydney at Perpetual Investments, which manages about $25 billion.

Exporters rose. Honda climbed 2.6 percent to 3,820 yen in Tokyo. Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker, added 1.4 percent to 5,020 yen. Techtronic Industries Co., the maker of Ryobi power tools that gets about 72 percent of revenue from North America, jumped 2.8 percent to HK$18.10 in Hong Kong.

Sony surged 11 percent to 1,668 yen after Daiwa Securities raised its rating to buy from neutral, saying it anticipates a “dramatic earnings turnaround.”

Nikon Corp., which makes cameras and chip-manufacturing equipment, rose 2.5 percent 2,262 yen in Tokyo. The Nikkei newspaper reported the company won a 6 billion yen ($62 million) order from Intel Corp., its second-biggest customer.

Tariff Barriers

Nippon Meat Packers Inc., a maker of ham and sausages that owns two Japanese baseball teams, jumped 6.5 percent to 1,552 yen on speculation the government agreed to remove tariff barriers protecting the country’s beef and wheat farmers when Japan joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

Chinese airlines rallied. China should increase investment for airport construction as facilities in the country won’t be able to meet travel demand, Shanghai Securities News reported, citing Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Air passenger and cargo volumes will grow faster this year than last, he said.

China Southern Airlines, the country’s second-largest carrier by market value, gained 2.9 percent to HK$4.24 in Hong Kong. China Eastern Airlines Corp. advanced 1.5 percent to HK$3.32.

Among shares that fell, BYD tumbled 7.8 percent to HK$24.25. The company has hire Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG to arrange a share offering, according to two people familiar with the matter. Based on yesterday’s close, the sale would be worth as much as HK$4.17 billion ($538 million), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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