Asian Stocks Rise on U.S. Data; Dividends Drag on Japan

Asian shares rose after U.S. home prices climbed the most since 2006 and orders for durable goods beat estimates. Gains by Japanese shares were limited as about 80 percent of the companies in the Topix Index traded without rights to a dividend today.

James Hardie Industries SE, a supplier of building materials that counts the U.S. as its biggest market, gained 1.2 percent in Sydney. China Communications Construction Co., which helped build sections of the new San Francisco Bay Bridge, jumped 7.3 percent in Hong Kong on full-year profit that surpassed expectations. Bank of China Ltd., the nation’s fourth-largest lender, increased 2 percent after posting better-than-estimated profit growth.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.3 percent to 136.04 as of 7:53 p.m. in Tokyo, with about two shares rising for each that fell. Just two groups out of the 10 industries on the Asia-Pacific measure declined today. The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index advanced 0.6 percent to 473.79, while the Topix added 0.2 percent to 1,046.47.

“Stocks would’ve risen a lot without shares going ex-dividend,” said Koji Toda, chief fund manager at Resona Bank Ltd. in Tokyo, which oversees about 15 trillion yen ($158 billion). “The U.S. is experiencing the best scenario in that its economy is going strong while risk remains for the rest of the world, namely Europe.”

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 Asia benchmark traded at 15 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 14.2 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.6 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Philippine Upgrade

Gains in Japanese shares were limited because 1,330 of the 1,696 companies on the Topix if bought today wouldn’t receive a dividend for the most recent period. Among them was Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s No. 1 carmaker, which fell 0.2 percent to 4,900 yen.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index jumped 2.7 percent to a record after Fitch Ratings gave the Southeast Asian nation its first investment-grade debt rating.

South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.5 percent as the nation’s consumer sentiment index rose this month to the highest since May 2012. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 1.5 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.7 percent as Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man and owner of developer Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd., backed property curbs by the government.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 percent, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index gained 0.8 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index advanced 0.5 percent even as a magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook parts of the island.

Durables Orders

Futures on the S&P 500 Index added 0.1 percent. The U.S. equity gauge 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, rising the most since September, according to a Commerce Department report.

“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.”

Companies that do business in the U.S. advanced, with James Hardie climbing 1.2 percent to A$9.82 in Sydney. Techtronic Industries Co., a maker of power tools that counts the U.S. as its biggest market, gained 2.8 percent to HK$19.22 in Hong Kong. Panasonic Corp., Japan’s second-biggest television maker, jumped 5.2 percent to 708 yen in Tokyo.

Chinese Earnings

China Communications Construction gained 7.3 percent to HK$7.10 after posting full-year profit of 12.2 billion yuan, exceeding the average estimate of 11.3 billion yuan by 16 analysts compiled by Bloomberg.

Bank of China advanced 2 percent to HK$3.62 after net income rose to 139.4 billion yuan ($22 billion) from a restated 124.3 billion yuan a year earlier, beating the 132.6 billion-yuan average estimate of 31 analysts compiled by Bloomberg.

Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., Japan’s second-biggest tire maker, jumped 4.4 percent to 1,575 yen after its equity rating was raised to outperform at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co.

Among stocks that dropped, Daiei Inc. fell the most on the Topix after a report Aeon Co. will buy shares at a discount to raise its stake in the supermarket operator. Daiei slumped 9.8 percent to 286 yen and Aeon, Japan’s biggest retailer, jumped 6.3 percent to 1,226 yen.

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