Japan, Australia Stock Futures Gain as U.S. Jobless Claims Drop

Japanese and Australian stock futures edged higher, with the MSCI Asia Pacific Index heading for its best weekly gain in seven months, after U.S. jobless claims fell and the yen weakened as investors bet global central-bank stimulus will buoy equities.

American Depositary Receipts of Canon Inc., a camera maker that gets 80 percent of sales outside Japan, advanced 1.1 percent as the yen traded within 0.1 percent of 100 yen to the dollar. Shares of Fast Retailing Co. may be active as Credit Suisse Group AG analysts said overseas business growth won’t be able to offset a slowdown in Japan. ADRs of BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, fell 0.4 percent as metals prices dropped.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in June closed at 13,495 in Chicago yesterday, up from 13,490 at the close in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 13,490 in Osaka at 8:05 a.m. local time. Futures on Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.2 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.1 percent.

“Markets could grind higher for an extended period,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research in Sydney at Perpetual Investments, which manages about $25 billion. They “are rising again in the wake of central-bank largesse. Profits need to be revised higher in the coming months for the market rally to be sustained.”

Yen Weakens

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, the benchmark regional equities gauge, yesterday posted its biggest advance in eight months as the yen neared 100 to the dollar after the Bank of Japan said it will maintain stimulus and loan growth in China topped estimates.

The gauge has climbed the past five months on speculation Japan would do more to boost the economy and amid signs the U.S. economy is recovering. That left the gauge yesterday trading at 14 times average estimated earnings compared with 14.4 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.7 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.1 percent. The gauge closed at a record as retailers climbed amid rising March sales and as jobless claims dropped more than estimated.

Jobless claims decreased by 42,000 to 346,000 in the week ended April 6 from a revised 388,000, Labor Department figures showed yesterday in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 360,000. Holidays such as Easter that fall on different weeks from year to year make it difficult to smooth out swings in the data, leading to increased volatility, the Labor Department said.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese shares in the U.S. dropped 1.1 percent in New York yesterday.

The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Commodity Index slid 0.3 percent yesterday.

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