Asian Stocks Rise on Central Bank Policy Optimism

Asian stocks rose, with a regional gauge that excludes Japan headed for the highest closing level in six weeks, amid optimism central banks will maintain loose monetary policies to boost economic growth.

ZTE Corp. gained 3.7 percent in Hong Kong as China’s second-biggest maker of mobile-phone equipment returned to profit in the first three months of this year. Westpac Banking Corp. jumped 1.7 percent, leading Australian banks higher, as analysts forecast the country’s second-largest lender will announce increased profit this week. OCI Co. lost 2.1 percent, heading for its lowest closing level in more than five years, after clients canceled 1.46 trillion won ($1.3 billion) of polysilicon orders with the South Korean chemical manufacturer.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index advanced 0.5 percent to 478.25 as of 6:57 p.m. in Hong Kong, poised for the highest close since March 12. Markets in China and Japan are closed today for a holiday. The U.S. Federal Reserve starts a two-day policy meeting tomorrow after a government report last week showed the world’s largest economy expanded less than economists’ forecast.

“We’re in a sweet spot for equities,” Steve Brice, chief investment strategist at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The authorities are very keen to keep the economy on a recovery track. They are likely to talk less about tightening” when the Fed concludes its policy meeting this week.

Regional Gauges

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.6 percent, with trading volume 41 percent below the 30-day average. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose 0.7 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index increased 0.1 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index added 0.4 percent. Indonesia’s Jakarta Composite Index climbed 0.4 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.2 percent, erasing earlier losses of as much as 0.3 percent. Trading volume on the measure was 21 percent less than the 30-day intraday average. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland Chinese firms trading in Hong Kong lost 0.5 percent as slower profit growth in the nation’s industrial companies added to signs the world’s No.2 economy is losing steam.

Mainland China’s equity markets are closed through May 1 for public holidays. South Korea’s Kospi index lost 0.2 percent.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.3 percent today. U.S. stocks rose last week as company earnings beat estimates amid speculation central bank stimulus will continue.

ZTE gained 3.7 percent to HK$12.86. A return to profit at the mobile-phone equipment maker due to an asset sale follows two straight quarterly losses.

Esprit Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based clothier that counts Europe as its biggest markets, jumped 4.8 percent to HK$10.52. UBS AG raised its rating on the stock to buy from neutral, saying earnings prospects are improving.

Australian Banks

Westpac added 1.7 percent to a record A$33.12. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. rose 0.7 percent to A$30.10, the highest since November 2007, and National Australia Bank advanced 1.4 percent to A$33.08, the highest since May 2008.

ANZ will report first-half earnings tomorrow, followed by Westpac on April 3 and National Australia Bank on May 9. The three banks are forecast to post higher adjusted profits compared to a year earlier, according to analyst estimates.

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest largest carmaker, advanced 1.6 percent to 197,000 won after agreeing with a labor union to restart weekend overtime.

CapitaLand Ltd. advanced 2.7 percent to S$3.75 in Singapore after Southeast Asia’s biggest developer said first-quarter profit rose 41 percent on higher home sales in Singapore and China. HSBC Holdings Plc raised its rating on the stock to overweight from neutral.

OCI sank 2.1 percent to 140,500 won in Seoul. Credit Suisse Group AG was among brokerages that downgraded recommendations on the shares, citing concern about the cancellation of Wuxi Suntech and Suntech Power contracts.

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