Australian Stock Futures Rise as U.S. Jobless Claims Decline

Australian stock futures rose after U.S. jobless claims reached a five-year low and the European Central Bank added to global stimulus by cutting its benchmark interest rate to a record low.

American Depositary Receipts of BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, advanced 0.8 percent as commodities prices climbed. Shares of Westpac Banking Corp. may be active after Australia’s second-biggest lender by market value said it will make an extra dividend payment to shareholders after first-half cash earnings rose 10 percent.

Futures on Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.5 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 0.6 percent. Futures on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and contracts on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland Chinese companies trading in Hong Kong gained 0.1 percent. Markets in Japan are closed today for a holiday.

“Unlike at this point in the last three years, you have central banks in Europe, the U.S. and Japan all easing,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which has $126 billion under management. “The market is a lot less worried about Europe. Profits are continuing to rise and we remain overweight stocks on a positive 12-month view. Housing indicators in the U.S. remain firm and the Fed is on standby. Valuations are still OK.”

Relative Value

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, the benchmark regional equities gauge, climbed 8.5 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 buoy growth. That left the gauge yesterday trading at 14 times average estimated earnings compared with 14.5 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.9 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed. The measure advanced 0.9 percent yesterday after the ECB lowered its main refinancing rate to 0.5 percent from 0.75 percent and Labor Department figures showed the number of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped to the lowest level in more than five years.

The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index of the most-traded Chinese shares in the U.S. climbed 0.5 percent in New York yesterday. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Commodity Index rose 1.2 percent.

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