Asian Stocks Headed for Highest Closing Level Since 2008

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index heading for the highest close since June 2008, after U.S. housing sales gained and amid speculation central banks will keep stimulating growth.

Samsung Electronics Co., South Korea’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, added 2.6 percent. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Australia’s third-largest lender, jumped 5.8 percent after boosting its dividend as first-half cash profit climbed 10 percent. Nomura Holdings Inc. advanced 4.1 percent after Japan’s No. 1 brokerage posted net income that beat analyst estimates.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index increased 1 percent to 141.93 at 8:23 p.m. in Tokyo, with two shares rising for each that fell. The measure has rallied 4.7 percent this month, extending gains for a sixth month, the longest winning streak since September 2009.

“There’s plenty of liquidity around the world, and so one would presume we will continue to see the rally for the next six to 12 months,” said Khiem Do, Hong Kong-based head of Asian multi-asset strategy at Baring Asset Management Ltd., which manages about $51 billion. “In the short-term, some markets like Japan and the U.S. have been overbought and could consolidate from day to day. But we are not talking about a 10-15 percent correction.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 8.6 percent this year through yesterday amid optimism Japan will deploy more measures to beat deflation and that policy makers in the U.S. and China remain on standby to support growth.

The Asian benchmark traded at 14.1 times estimated earnings yesterday, compared with 14.5 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 13 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Regional Gauges

Japan’s Topix Index rose 0.3 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi Index jumped 1.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 1.3 percent today and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index increased 0.7 percent.

Taiwan’s Taiex Index advanced 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.7 percent. Markets in mainland China are closed for a holiday.

Futures on the S&P 500 Index slid 0.1 percent today. The measure rose 0.7 percent to a record yesterday as pending sales of homes climbed 1.5 percent in March amid optimism central banks will maintain stimulus plans.

The European Central Bank will cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low of 0.5 percent on May 2, according to the majority of economists in a Bloomberg survey, while the Federal Reserve may consider renewing its commitment to bond-buying at a two-day meeting starting today.

Exporters Climb

Most exporters advanced. Samsung Electronics gained 2.6 percent to 1.52 million won in Seoul. Advantest Corp., the world’s largest maker of memory-chip testers, rose 3.3 percent to 1,458 yen in Tokyo. Techtronic Industries Co., the maker of Ryobi power tools that gets 72 percent of revenue from North America, added 1.8 percent to HK$18.54 in Hong Kong.

Hindustan Unilever Ltd. surged 17 percent to 583.8 rupees, the biggest advance on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. Unilever Plc, the world’s second-largest consumer goods company, will spend up to 292.2 billion rupees ($5.4 billion), or 600 rupees a share, to boost its stake in its Indian unit to help offset slower European growth.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., operator of the world’s largest merchant fleet, jumped 3.9 percent to 405 yen in Tokyo. The company said it expects to post a net profit of 50 billion yen ($510 million) in the year ending March 31, 2014, compared with a net loss of 178.8 billion yen in the previous year. The profit forecast for the current fiscal year surpassed the 23 billion yen average estimate by 15 analysts compiled by Bloomberg.

ANZ, Nomura

ANZ Bank climbed 5.8 percent to A$31.84 in Sydney, the highest close since at least 1969. Cash earnings, which exclude one-time items, jumped to A$3.18 billion ($3.29 billion) in the six months ended March 31, according to a stock-exchange filing. The Melbourne-based lender boosted its interim dividend to 73 Australian cents a share.

Nomura advanced 4.1 percent to 793 yen, pacing gains among brokerages, after saying fourth-quarter net income more than tripled to 82.4 billion yen ($840 million) from 22.1 billion yen a year earlier. The result exceeded the 56 billion yen average estimate of nine analysts.

SBI Holdings Inc., a Japanese brokerage that manages a venture capital fund, jumped 16 percent to 1,886 yen in Tokyo. The stock has gained the most on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index this month and so far this year. Daiwa Securities Group Inc., the nation’s No. 2 brokerage, rose 5 percent to 863 yen.

Of the 227 companies on the Asia-Pacific gauge that have reported quarterly earnings since April 1, and for which Bloomberg has estimates, 101 have missed projections.

Honda Motor Co., Japan’s second-biggest automaker by market value, slipped 3.4 percent to 3,875 yen after forecasting profit for the year ending March 2014 that missed analyst estimates.

Fanuc Corp., the No. 1 maker of industrial robots, tumbled 5.6 percent to 14,700 yen, the biggest decline since Jan. 28. The company forecast net income and operating profit to fall 39 percent in the first half.

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