Most Asian Stocks Rise, Led by Material, Before Bernanke

Most Asian stocks rose as material producers advanced ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s address to the U.S. Congress today.

BHP Billiton Ltd. added 2.3 percent in Sydney after the world’s biggest mining company said fourth-quarter iron-ore production gained 17 percent. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. jumped 11 percent in Tokyo on a report the carmaker will pay its first dividend in 16 years. China Resources Power Holdings Co. slumped 10 percent after a Xinhua News Agency reporter said the power generator and the chairman of its state-owned parent intentionally overpaid for a 2010 acquisition.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1 percent to 135.89 as of 7:56 p.m. in Hong Kong, after rising as much as 0.2 percent and falling 0.4 percent. About five stocks rose for every four that fell on the measure, which closed yesterday at the highest level since May 29.

“The primary positive driver for the global share market is sustained U.S. recovery,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research in Sydney at Perpetual Investments, which manages about $25 billion. The recovery “has removed a lot of downside risks.”

Relative Value

The Asia-Pacific measure rose 5.1 percent this year through yesterday, with consumer discretionary stocks leading the gain and energy shares falling the most among the 10 industry groups on the measure. The Asian benchmark gauge traded at 13.3 times estimated earnings, compared with 15.2 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 13.2 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Japan’s Topix index added 0.2 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index climbed 1.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.1 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained less than 0.1 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.3 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks the bigger of China’s stock exchanges, declined 1 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index was little changed and Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 0.5 percent.

Futures on the S&P 500 were little changed. The measure dropped 0.4 percent in New York yesterday, halting its longest rally since January, as Coca-Cola Co. reported that profit fell 4 percent, the second quarterly decline in a row. Sales were sapped by economic weakness in China and Europe, shifting tastes in the U.S. and unseasonable weather in places such as India.

Bernanke Testimony

Bernanke will deliver his semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress this week, starting today at the House Financial Services Committee. Fed Bank of Kansas City President Esther George said yesterday the U.S. was on the “right path” for economic recovery and that cuts in the pace of stimulus are “appropriate.”

Material producers gained the most among the 10 industry groups on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. BHP Billiton was the biggest support to the group, rising 2.3 percent to A$34.19 in Sydney after saying iron-ore output was 47.7 million metric tons in the three months ended June 30, from 40.9 million tons a year earlier.

Australian iron-ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd added 6 percent to A$3.71 and Anhui Conch Cement Co., a Chinese cement maker, rose 6.1 percent to HK$23.40 in Hong Kong.

Mitsubishi Motors

Mitsubishi Motors jumped 11 percent to 160 yen in Tokyo after the Nikkei newspaper reported the carmaker’s dividend may exceed 10 yen for the current fiscal year, which would be the first dividend in 16 years.

China Resources Power slumped 10 percent to HK$17.98 in Hong Kong after the official Xinhua News Agency posted a letter online from one of its reporters, Wang Wenzhi, saying that Song Lin, chairman of parent China Resources (Holdings) Co., overpaid for a 2010 acquisition.

China Shenhua Energy Co., the nation’s biggest coal miner by market value, jumped 5.3 percent to HK$21.80 in Hong Kong after revenue rose last month.

Billabong International Ltd., a global surfwear maker, surged 34 percent to 33.5 Australian cents in Sydney after its chief executive officer stepped down yesterday amid a refinancing deal.