Japanese Stock Futures, Australian Shares Rise on U.S. Data

Japanese stock futures and Australian equities rose after U.S. home prices climbed the most since 2006 and orders for U.S. durable goods beat estimates, boosting earnings prospects for Asian exporters.

Gains in Japanese shares may be limited as 79 percent of the companies in the Topix Index go ex-dividend today, meaning investors who buy the shares today won’t get a dividend. American depositary receipts of Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Japan’s third-largest bank by market value, slid 1.4 percent from the Tokyo close, before going ex-dividend today. BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s biggest oil and gas producer, rose 0.9 percent in Sydney as crude advanced.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in June closed at 12,470 in Chicago yesterday, up from 12,370 in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 12,470 in Osaka, at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.2 percent today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.6 percent in Wellington.

“Average U.S. investors feel more secure about their jobs, seeing their house prices go up, and think the crisis is well behind them,” said Andrew Pease, Sydney-based chief investment strategist at Russell Investment Group, which manages about $160 billion. “We like emerging markets and Asia simply because, even though there’s concern about Chinese policy tightening, earnings numbers still look good.”

U.S. Housing

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.1 percent today. The index rose 0.8 percent in New York yesterday, as residential real estate prices increased in January by the most since June 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. Orders for U.S. durable goods climbed more than forecast in February, propelled by automobiles and a rebound in commercial aircraft, a Commerce Department report showed.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 4.8 percent this year through yesterday on improving economic data from the U.S. and speculation that Japan will deploy more stimulus. The Asian benchmark traded at 15 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 14.2 times for the S&P 500 and 12.6 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery rose $1.53, or 1.6 percent, to $96.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the biggest rally since Dec. 26 and the highest settlement since Feb. 19.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese companies in the U.S. gained 0.6 percent to a two-week high of 92.66 yesterday.

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