Asian Stocks Rise as Commodity Firms Gain

Asian stocks gained, led by commodity producers, as slower-than-estimated growth in China’s inflation damped concern that the nation’s central bank will need to tighten monetary policy.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the biggest mining company, posted the longest streak of gains in two months as metal prices rose. Alumina Ltd. gained 5 percent in Sydney after its joint-venture partner Alcoa Inc. reported first-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts’ estimates. Sundance Resources Ltd. tumbled 48 percent after terminating an agreement with Sichuan Hanlong Group following the Chinese company’s failure to secure funding for its A$1.14 billion ($1.18 billion) bid to buy the rest of the Australian iron-ore miner.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.6 percent to 134.77 as of 7:33 p.m. in Tokyo, rising for a second day. About three stocks advanced for each two that fell on the gauge. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average closed little changed at a 4 1/2 year high. Japanese shares have led five months of advances on the regional Asian benchmark on speculation the nation would unleash more stimulus and amid signs the U.S. economy is recovering.

“Risk appetite is still there for equities,” Binay Chandgothia, Hong Kong-based fund manager at Principal Global Investors, which oversees more than $280 billion, said in a telephone interview. “On an incremental basis, it’s safe to put money into Japan as a lot of people haven’t yet got on to the bandwagon. I’m not too worried about China -- they won’t tighten policy meaningfully.”

Chinese Stocks

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.7 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.6 percent, the first advance in five days, as inflation in the world’s second-largest economy eased more than forecast from a 10-month high. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland Chinese firms listed in Hong Kong gained 1.7 percent, the most since March 20.

China’s consumer price index rose 2.1 percent in March from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said today in Beijing. That compares with the 2.5 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 38 economists and a 3.2 percent gain in February when spending for the Lunar New Year holiday pushed up prices.

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average has added almost 10 percent since its the close on April 2, before the BOJ started a two-day meeting that resulted in additional stimulus. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 1.5 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.6 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 0.3 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slipped 0.1 percent.

Miners Rise

BHP Billiton rose 1.4 percent to A$33.11 in Sydney, a third day of gains. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-largest miner, advanced 3.5 percent to A$56.73. Komatsu Ltd., the world’s second-biggest construction equipment maker, added 2.4 percent to 2,351 yen in Tokyo. Jiangxi Copper Co., China’s largest producer of the metal, advanced 2.1 percent to HK$16.64 in Hong Kong. Copper climbed 0.8 percent, gaining for a second day.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.1 percent. The measure gained 0.6 percent yesterday as investors speculated first-quarter earnings for U.S. companies would help equities rebound from their biggest weekly decline of the year.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index traded at 13.6 times average estimated earnings yesterday compared with 14.1 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.3 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

North Korea

Rising military tensions with North Korea have driven the cost of protecting against swings in a security tracking South Korean stocks to the highest level on record compared with emerging-market equities. Implied volatility, the key gauge of option prices, for contracts closest to the iShares MSCI South Korea Capped Index Fund jumped 26 percent this month to 23.3, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s a record 41 percent more than the measure for the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.1 percent. Gains were limited by companies that do business in North Korea after the communist nation said it will suspend operations at a jointly run industrial complex. Shinwon Corp. fell 2 percent to 1,260 won.

Sundance fell a record 48 percent to 11 Australian cents. Hanlong’s botched bid for Sundance brings the value of China’s recent failed mining deals to $45 billion, a record that’s prompted stricter Chinese scrutiny of acquisitions.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said there may be a leak at the No. 1 underground storage tank at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. Shares of Tepco, as the firm is known, lost 4.4 percent to 285 yen.

Alumina gained 5 percent to A$1.055 as an increase in demand from airplane and car manufacturers at Alcoa boosted first-quarter earnings.

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