Asian Stocks Head for Weekly Rise on U.S. Jobs Data

Asia’s benchmark stock index headed for its fourth straight weekly advance as investors awaited U.S. jobs data. Energy and industrial shares led gains today.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the refiner better known as Sinopec, climbed 4.6 percent in Hong Kong after Premier Li Keqiang reiterated this week that China would allow private investment in oil and power projects. Fanuc Corp., a factory-robotics maker that get 78 percent of sales overseas, gained 1.8 percent in Tokyo as the yen headed for its biggest weekly decline since the period ended Nov. 29. Great Wall Motor Co. slid 3.4 percent in Hong Kong after reporting slower sales.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.5 percent to 139.40 as of 4:27 p.m. in Hong Kong, poised for a 1.2 percent weekly gain. The U.S. Labor Department will release its February jobs report today. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index extended a record high yesterday as fewer Americans than projected filed for unemployment last week, an indication companies are holding on to staff even as cold weather threatens to slow growth.

“What’s expected this year is that the U.S. economy will accelerate,” Tony Crescenzi, a money manager at Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “Equities could fare well. The employment statistics in the U.S. are due out and it might shape perceptions about what’s next.” Pimco has $1.9 trillion in assets.

Asian shares are heading for the longest weekly winning streak since September, while global shares trade at their most expensive this year, as concern eases that Russia’s Ukraine incursion will spark a broader conflict.

India Elections

Japan’s Topix index climbed 0.7 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.3 percent to a 5 1/2-year high. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.2 percent to a record. South Korea’s Kospi index was little changed. Futures on the S&P 500 rose 0.1 percent.

India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index rose 1.8 percent, heading for to a record close and its best week since April 2013, after data showed overseas funds extended purchases of local shares ahead of general elections starting next month.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index increased 6.6 percent through yesterday from this year’s low on Feb. 4. The gauge traded at 13.1 times the estimated earnings of its constituent companies yesterday, compared with 16 for the S&P 500 and 14.6 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 0.2 percent, capping its first weekly decline in four weeks. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland Chinese equities listed in the city gained 0.4 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index was little changed.

China Default

China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1 percent as Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. failed to make an interest payment, making it the first onshore bond default. The maker of energy cells to convert sunlight was due to make a payment of 89.8 million yuan ($14.7 million).

“This will likely be the first of many defaults, although I don’t think it’s going to cause a cascading effect in the bond market,” said Brian Coulton, a global emerging-market strategist in London at Legal & General Investment Management, which manages some 450 billion pounds ($753 billion) globally. “Short term, we’re likely to see higher bond yields but in the long term, this will create a better market for pricing credit risk.”

Sinopec jumped 4.6 percent to HK$7.06. The shake-up of the energy sector gathered pace after Premier Li pledged this week to allow non-state capital in oil and power projects. That follows Sinopec, saying it would search for investors for as much as 30 percent of its oil retail unit in a sale that could raise more than $20 billion.

Japanese exporters advanced. Fanuc gained 1.8 percent to 17,785 yen. Sony Corp., the market of Bravia Televisions and PlayStation game consoles, rose 1 percent to 1,844 yen. Tokyo Electron Ltd. gained 1.6 percent to 6,137 yen.

Among shares that fell, Great Wall Motor dropped 3.4 percent to HK$32.75 after reporting vehicle sales dropped to 50,091 units in February from 69,628 in January.

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