Asian Stocks Rise, Head for Best Weekly Gain Since April

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark gauge posting its biggest weekly increase in almost a year. Yahoo Japan Corp. plunged after agreeing to buy assets from parent SoftBank Corp.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.7 percent to 137.02 as of 7:45 p.m. in Tokyo. The measure has gained 3.2 percent since March 21. Chinese shares in Hong Kong surged 6.1 percent this week, their biggest weekly gain since November. Japan’s Topix index climbed 3.5 percent on the week, the best such rally in four months.

Today’s advance pared the MSCI Asia Pacific gauge’s loss this year to 3.1 percent. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country has policies in reserve to deal with any economic volatility this year and can’t ignore “difficulties and risks” from a slowdown, according to a central-government website statement.

“The market’s focus is switching to the next catalysts, such as expectations for government action,” said Masaaki Yamaguchi, equity market strategist at Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest brokerage by market value. “In China, the economic outlook is worsening for sure, but I think hopes for government measures are providing a floor to the market.”

Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. soared 7.1 percent in Hong Kong after full-year net income rose 47 percent. Tencent Holdings Ltd. added 2.6 percent to advance for the first time in four days. Yahoo Japan Corp. slumped 6.4 percent after agreeing to buy eAccess Ltd. for 324 billion yen ($3.2 billion) from SoftBank, which fell 1.5 percent.

Topix Advances

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.8 percent today after falling as much as 0.7 percent. The nation’s consumer price index excluding perishables and energy rose 0.8 percent, the most since 1998, a report showed. Household spending fell 2.5 percent in February from a year earlier, the first drop in six months, compared to the median estimate of economists for a 0.1 percent rise.

South Korea’s Kospi index gained 0.2 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.3 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 0.1 percent, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index added 0.3 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advanced 1.1 percent. Tencent contributed the most to the measure’s advance, rising 2.6 percent to HK$535.00. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares traded in the city jumped 1.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent.

Weaker economic data from China is fueling optimism the government will act to stabilize growth. Reports this week showed a drop in profit growth for industrial companies, while a private gauge of manufacturing in the world’s second-largest economy signaled a third month of contraction for the sector, with the index declining more than economists had estimated.

Monthly Loss

The Asian regional stock gauge is poised for a 0.6 percent decline this month as investors weigh global developments.

“Investors are a bit unsure given these issues regarding Ukraine, China, how strong the U.S. economy is when the Fed is tightening and what will happen in Japan after the sale-tax increase,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which has $140 billion under management. “All of them are causing investors to hold back a little bit and we are seeing messy action in share markets.”

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.3 percent today. The equity measure lost 0.2 percent yesterday, led by banks and technology companies, as investors continued a selloff of the bull market’s biggest winners.

Jobless Claims

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly declined last week to an almost four-month low, a sign companies are confident in the outlook for demand, data yesterday showed. Gross domestic product grew at a 2.6 percent annualized rate from October through December, less than the 2.7 percent median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Brilliance China jumped 7.1 percent to HK$11.16, the biggest rally since September 2012. The carmaker’s full-year net income surged 47 percent to 3.37 billion yuan ($543 million). The company is projecting 30 percent growth in sales volume, according to UBS AG.

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. advanced 2.2 percent to HK$4.72 as net income climbed after Asia’s largest-listed lender set aside lower provisions for bad debt than analysts estimated.

Yahoo Japan plunged 6.4 percent to 514 yen, the biggest drop since Feb. 4. The company will start a new service to be called Y!mobile that shares phone networks with SoftBank, and the transaction will go ahead once eAccess completes a merger with Willcom Inc., Yahoo Japan said yesterday. All companies involved in the deal are controlled by billionaire Masayoshi Son. SoftBank fell 1.5 percent to 7,694 yen.

The Asia-Pacific gauge traded at 12.6 times estimated earnings, compared with 15.8 for the S&P 500 and 14.6 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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