Asian Stocks Advance Second Day as Syrian Concern Eases

Asian stocks rose, with the benchmark index gaining a second day, on receding prospects for an imminent strike against Syria. Energy shares retreated as oil extended losses.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. added 3.5 percent in Tokyo to lead utilities higher after forecasting a narrower loss. Inpex Corp., Japan’s No. 1 energy explorer, dropped 2 percent. Ping An Insurance (Group) Co., China’s second-largest insurer, gained 0.9 percent in Hong Kong after saying first-half profit climbed.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.4 percent to 130.24 as of 10:09 p.m. in Tokyo, after swinging between gains of as much as 0.5 percent and losses of 0.1 percent. The gauge has declined 0.9 percent this week and a 1.5 percent this month. The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index gained 1 percent.

“The fact that attack on Syria is less likely is obviously a positive thing as far as sentiment goes,” Andrew Sullivan, director of sales trading at Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong, said by telephone. “But we’ve also seen an impact on oil prices and gold. That’s part of the choppiness.”

Japan’s Topix index slipped 0.9 percent even after data showed consumer prices rose at the fastest pace since 2008. Industrial production increased less than economists’ estimates.

South Korea’s Kospi index added 1 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.5 percent, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and China’s Shanghai Composite Index both added 0.1 percent.

Taiwan’s Taiex Index increased 1.3 percent, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index slid 0.3 percent. India’s S&P BSE Sensex climbed 1.2 percent.

Utilities Advance

Utilities gained the most among the 10 industry groups on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. Hokkaido Electric rose 3.5 percent to 1,154 yen after projecting a first-half loss of 1 billion yen ($10 million) versus 48.6 billion yen a year earlier. Shikoku Electric Power Co. added 3.9 percent to 1,534 yen.

Crude oil fell a second day after U.K. lawmakers rejected a motion by Prime Minister David Cameron seeking endorsement for military strikes against Syria, easing concern that oil supplies will be disrupted in the Middle East.

President Barack Obama is struggling to marshal evidence backing charges that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the use of chemical weapons near Damascus last week, according to three U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the situation. Syrian opposition groups say 1,300 people died in the attack.

Inpex lost 2 percent to 445,500 yen. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, fell 1.8 percent to HK$5.59. Cnooc Ltd., China’s biggest offshore oil and gas explorer, dropped 0.8 percent to HK$15.40.

U.S. Growth

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 0.2 percent today. The measure gained 0.2 percent yesterday as a report showed the U.S. economy grew 2.5 percent in the second quarter, up from an initial estimate of 1.7 percent and more than the 2.2 percent projected by economists.

“We have a nice revision to the U.S. GDP, but the outlook remains very tough,” said Sullivan at Kim Eng Securities. “There are so many macro overhangs at the moment and a lot of trading investors are waiting on the sidelines.”

Among other stocks that gained, Ping An Insurance rose 0.9 percent to HK$54.35. First-half profit increased 28 percent on higher investment and banking income.

China Cosco Holdings Co., the nation’s biggest shipping company, added 3.8 percent to HK$3.56 in Hong Kong. Losses narrowed after asset sales helped offset a freight-rate slump. The loss in the six months through June was 990 million yuan ($162 million), compared with a 4.87 billion-yuan decline a year earlier.

Regional Performance

The MSCI Asia Pacific has risen 0.7 percent this year, lagging a 15 percent surge in the S&P 500. Investors have sold assets across the region on expectations the Federal Reserve will taper economic stimulus next month.

The Asia Pacific index trades at 12.7 times estimated earnings, compared with 14.9 for the S&P 500 Index and 13.6 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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