Asian Stocks Rise Sixth Day as U.S. Manufacturing Expands

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index posting its longest winning streak in seven weeks, after an increase in U.S. manufacturing boosted optimism about growth in the world’s biggest economy.

Nissan Motor Co., a Japanese carmaker that gets 34 percent of revenue in North America, added 1.5 percent. Renesas Electronics Corp. surged 6 percent in Tokyo on a report Apple Inc. is seeking to buy a stake in a unit that designs chips for liquid-crystal displays used in smartphones. Noble Group Ltd. advanced 5 percent in Singapore after Cofco Corp. agreed to buy 51 percent of Noble’s agricultural trading unit.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.4 percent to 138.87 as of 7:25 p.m. in Tokyo. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced to a record yesterday after the Institute for Supply Management’s index rose to 53.7 in March from 53.2 in February, showing manufacturing was expanding as a winter-depressed first quarter ended.

“Economic data was constructive for market bulls as it painted a picture of a gradually improving U.S. manufacturing sector,” Matthew Sherwood, head of investment markets research in Sydney at Perpetual Investments, wrote in a note. “There were solid rises in forward orders and production, which suggests that the weather slowdown could be clearing.”

Japan’s Topix index added 0.6 percent after the yen yesterday fell for a fourth day against the dollar. Japanese companies have signaled confidence in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to stamp out deflation. Consumer prices will rise 1.5 percent over the next 12 months and 1.7 percent in three years, according to companies responding to the Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey.

Regional Gauges

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advanced 0.3 percent, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares traded in the city fell 0.7 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.3 percent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 0.3 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.1 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index rose 0.4 percent, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index fell 0.2 percent.

Futures on the S&P 500 index rose 0.1 percent today. The measure gained 0.7 percent yesterday. A private report today is projected to show U.S. employers added more workers last month before non-farm payrolls data due April 4.

U.S. reports from employment to factory output had shown weakness this year as freezing temperatures and snow kept shoppers indoors, grounded flights and made it harder for shippers to fill product orders.

Yellen’s Comments

The signs of economic improvement come as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on March 31 signaled the central bank’s unprecedented monetary stimulus would be needed for “some time” because of “considerable slack” in the labor market. She cited large numbers of partly unemployed workers, stagnant wages, lower labor-force participation and longer periods of joblessness.

Companies that do business in the U.S. gained, with Nissan rising 1.5 percent to 935 yen. Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings) Ltd., a shoe supplier that gets about 31 percent of sales from the U.S., climbed 1 percent to HK$25.35.

Renesas Electronics jumped 6 percent to 831 yen after surging as much as 19 percent. Apple may pay up to 50 billion yen for a stake in Renesas SP Drivers Inc., the Nikkei newspaper reported today. Renesas SP designs, develops and sells liquid crystal display drivers and controllers for small- and medium-sized panels, according to the company’s website. A Renesas spokesman said no decision has been made.

Noble Rises

Noble Group advanced 5 percent to S$1.26 after Cofco, China’s largest trader of grains, agreed to pay $1.5 billion upfront for just over half of Noble’s agricultural trading unit. The purchase highlights China’s push to secure more food overseas as it juggles scarce farming resources at home against a dependence on imports. It’s the second such deal for Cofco this year after it agreed to buy a majority stake in Dutch grain trader Nidera BV in February.

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., a Hong Kong developer, added 4.1 percent to HK$99.75 after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the real estate market is no longer overheated. Mainland developers also rose after the Shanghai Securities News said some cities are discussing easing curbs on home purchases. China Resources Land Ltd. advanced 4.7 percent to HK$17.94.

Goodman Fielder Ltd., a food supplier, slumped 22 percent to 47.5 Australian cents in Sydney after it cut its fourth-quarter earnings forecast.

The Asia-Pacific gauge traded at 12.5 times estimated earnings as of yesterday compared with 16.1 for the S&P 500 and 14.7 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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