Asia Stocks Set for Best Week Since April; Fast Retailing Drops

Most Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark headed for its biggest weekly advance since April, amid optimism central bank stimulus and improving economic growth in the U.S. will buoy equities. Hong Kong shares fell after yesterday’s biggest gain since January.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, gained 1.4 percent, tracking a surge overnight in metals prices. Newcrest Mining Ltd., Australia’s No. 1 gold miner, jumped 8.9 percent as the price of the precious metal headed for its steepest weekly surge in 21 months. Fast Retailing Co. sank 5.8 percent in Tokyo after Asia’s biggest clothing retailer reported earnings declined.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.2 percent as of 7:21 p.m. in Hong Kong, with about three stocks gaining for every two that fell. The gauge has climbed 3 percent this week as the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan signaled they will maintain measures to boost their economies.

“Monetary conditions are still very stimulatory and markets can get some comfort from that,” Chris Green, an Auckland-based strategist at First NZ Capital Ltd., a brokerage and wealth management firm, said by telephone. “Even though there is recognition that tapering is on the way, the market has got more confidence that it’s not touching the brakes, just easing off the accelerator. That will be supportive for equities for some time.”

Regional Gauges

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.6 percent as the yen weakened against the dollar. The measure posted its biggest four-week gain in more than four years. After plunging as much as 18 percent from a May 22 high, the gauge rebounded amid optimism Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will push through economic reforms following elections on July 21.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.2 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index climbed 0.5 percent.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index sank 0.4 percent after a stronger-than-estimated expansion in the city state’s economy last quarter reduced pressure on the central bank to ease monetary policy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid 0.8 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite slid 1.6 percent. The Shanghai measure fell 10 percent this year as data from industrial production to exports pointed to a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy and as money-market rates reached record highs last month.

China Growth

Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said a 6.5 percent economic-growth rate wouldn’t be a “big problem,” signaling the government may tolerate a slower pace of expansion than officials have previously indicated.

South Korea’s Kospi index retreated 0.4 percent. Hyundai Motor Co. lost 5.9 percent to 209,000 won in Seoul amid concern that plans in China to increase the number of cities curbing auto purchases to fight pollution and congestion will threaten vehicle sales. Kia Motors Corp. sank 4.7 percent to 58,600 won.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The U.S. equities benchmark surged 1.4 percent to a record closing level yesterday as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke backed sustained monetary stimulus.

The Fed has helped stoke a 32 percent advance in global stocks over the past three years as it suppressed interest rates through its asset purchases aimed at bolstering the economy. After signaling in May that the program could be reduced as risks to the U.S. outlook abate, Bernanke said July 10 that “highly accommodative” monetary policy was needed for the foreseeable future.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index traded at 13.3 times average estimated earnings yesterday compared with 15.2 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 13.2 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Miners Jump

A gauge of raw-material producers rose 0.9 percent, the biggest advance among 10 industry groups on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. The London Metal Exchange LMEX Index, a measure of commodities prices, gained 1.9 percent yesterday.

BHP Billiton rose 1.4 percent to A$33.31 in Sydney, a fourth day of gains. JFE Holdings Inc., Japan’s second-largest steelmaker, gained 2.4 percent to 2,483 yen. Newcrest climbed 8.9 percent to A$12.09, with gold on course for its best weekly advance since October 2011.

Bullet Trains

CSR Corp., China’s biggest trainmaker, soared 7.1 percent to HK$4.70 in Hong Kong after Shanghai Securities News reported the nation may start taking bids for bullet trains in the second half. The four top gains on the Hang Seng Composite Index today were railway-related companies.

Infosys Ltd. surged 11 percent to 2,804.2 rupees, the most since January, after India’s second-largest software exporter reported an increase in first-quarter profit and the company’s sales forecast in dollar terms beat analyst estimates.

Fast Retailing, the firm run by billionaire Tadashi Yanai sank 5.8 percent to 36,450 yen. Operating profit at for the three months ended May fell to 27.4 billion yen ($280 million) from 27.6 billion yen a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations derived from results provided by the Japanese company in a stock-exchange statement yesterday. That was below the average estimate of 35 billion yen from three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Daphne International Holdings Ltd., a footwear maker that sells Aldo and Aerosoles shoes in China, slumped 13 percent to HK$5.02 in Hong Kong after saying it expects first-half profit will fall.