Asian Stocks Maintain Two-Day Gain as Miners Advance

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index maintained its gains over the past two days as material shares led the advance while consumer-staple companies fell.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, added 2.9 percent in Sydney. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. surged 10 percent amid speculation investors were buying shares of the Japanese carmaker to cover short positions. E-Mart Co., a South Korean retailer, fell 4.5 percent, pacing losses among consumer stocks, after Deutsche Bank AG lowered its rating on the shares.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added less than 0.1 percent to 139.57 as of 5:09 p.m. in Tokyo, after falling as much as 0.4 percent. The measure climbed 0.7 percent the previous two days and is down 0.1 percent on the week.

“Investors are digesting economic fundamentals and earnings one by one,” said Hitoshi Asaoka, a Tokyo-based senior strategist at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. “Expectations for earnings and monetary easing supported stocks toward the end of last year, but now actual results are coming out, investors are pricing in the reality.”

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.6 percent, after falling as much as 0.6 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.6 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.1 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.9 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index slid 0.7 percent.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.1 percent. The measure slid 0.1 percent yesterday from a record high as earnings at companies from Citigroup Inc. to CSX Corp. disappointed investors.

Citigroup and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. led declines among banks after releasing fourth-quarter results. CSX, the biggest railroad in the eastern U.S., dropped 6.8 percent as profit missed analysts’ forecasts for the first time in two years.

Jobless Claims

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the labor market continues to strengthen. Jobless claims decreased by 2,000 to 326,000, the least since the end of November, from a revised 328,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed yesterday. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 328,000.

Another report showed inflation in the U.S. climbed in December by the most in six months, led by gains in fuel and rents. The 0.3 percent increase in the consumer-price index was the biggest since June and followed no change the prior month.

China’s factory output and investment growth probably weakened in December, adding to signs the world’s second-largest economy is losing momentum as analysts forecast expansion in 2014 at the lowest in 24 years.

China Data

Industrial-production gains slowed to a five-month low of 9.8 percent and gross domestic product grew 7.6 percent from a year earlier in the October-December period, based on the median estimates of analysts before data due Jan. 20.

The Asia-Pacific stocks gauge traded at 13.1 times estimated earnings as of yesterday, compared with 15.6 for the S&P 500 and 14 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Miners Rally

Mining companies posted the biggest advance among the 10 industry groups on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index today as copper futures rose and Citigroup Inc. turned bullish on the industry for the first time in three years.

“Improvements in European and U.S. growth are supportive for commodities and weakening commodity currencies are providing a fillip for the miners,” Citigroup analysts led by Heath R. Jansen wrote in a note dated Jan. 16.

BHP, which Citigroup raised to buy from neutral, climbed 2.9 percent to A$37.89. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-largest mining company, added 1.1 percent to A$66.32.

Mitsubishi Motors surged 10 percent to 1,280 yen, the most in six months. The gains in shares may be due to short-covering as well as “tight” demand for a secondary share placement announced on Jan. 7, said Gavin Parry, managing director of Hong Kong-based brokerage Parry International Trading.

China Cosco Holdings Co. gained 2.7 percent to HK$3.46 as the nation’s biggest cargo line said it expects to swing to a full-year profit from a loss the previous year.

Among stocks that declined, E-Mart slipped 4.5 percent to 253,000 won in Seoul after Deutsche Bank lowered its rating to hold from buy.

Super Retail Group Ltd. tumbled 14 percent to A$10.79, the steepest drop since March 2009, after the Australian store operator forecast first-half profit that missed analyst estimates.

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