Asian Stocks Rise as Phone, Electronics Companies Gain

Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index extending its rally to a six-month high, as phone carriers and electronics manufacturers advanced.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. climbed 1.6 percent after it agreed to sell Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. a part of its stake in Singapore Post Ltd., which jumped to a record. Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest maker of smartphones, added 1.9 percent in Seoul after unveiling a health-monitoring wristband. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s No. 1 mining company, dropped 1.3 percent in Sydney as copper futures declined.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.2 percent to 142.14 as of 7:14 p.m. in Hong Kong. The gauge reached its highest level since Nov. 20 and has climbed 3.5 percent in May, its biggest monthly increase since September. The regional benchmark index earlier fell 0.2 percent after Japan reported a worse-than-estimated drop in retail sales for April.

“Investors are more positive on equities as bond yields drop on expectations the European Central Bank will do something big next week,” Mark Matthews, Singapore-based head of Asia research for Julius Baer, which oversees about $377 billion, said by phone. “Valuations in Asia look attractive, with those for Chinese equities incredibly low. Japan has become pretty cheap, too.”

An unexpected increase in German joblessness and data on euro-region money supply released yesterday stoked bets that the ECB will act to boost inflation next week, fueling gains in European bonds.

Topix Swings

Japan’s Topix index added 0.2 percent, erasing an earlier loss of 0.4 percent. The nation’s retail sales fell 13.7 percent in April from March, the most in at least 14 years after the first consumption-tax increase since 1997 depressed consumer spending. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey had forecast an 11.7 percent decline.

Investors “should not read too much into the April retail sales numbers,” Vasu Menon, vice president of wealth management in Singapore at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., said on Bloomberg Television. “It turned out to be worse than expected. As we progress into the second quarter and third quarter, some of the negative impact from the Japanese sales-tax hike will wear off.”

Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 0.9 percent to a one-year high. Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the city’s shares to overweight from equal-weight, citing stabilizing economic growth and limited earnings risks, analysts led by Yang Bai wrote in a report.

Thailand’s SET Index added 0.4 percent, rising for a third day. Foreigners have been net sellers of stocks and bonds there since the military took control of the country, though outflows have eased since the May 22 coup, central bank spokeswoman Roong Mallikamas told reporters in Bangkok.

China Shares

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.3 percent, erasing earlier gains of 0.6 percent. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares traded in the city lost 0.1 percent, after rising as much as 0.8 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.5 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi index slid 0.2 percent. The nation’s current account surplus narrowed to $7.1 billion in April from a revised $7.29 billion in March, data released by the Bank of Korea today showed.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index closed little changed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and Taiwan’s Taiex index both slipped 0.1 percent. Markets in Indonesia are closed for a holiday.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index declined 1.6 percent to a one-month low. The country’s first-quarter gross domestic product increased 5.7 percent from a year earlier, missing estimates for 6.4 percent growth in a Bloomberg poll of 22 economists.

China Outlook

The Asia-Pacific gauge rebounded 9.2 percent from this year’s low in February amid optimism the U.S. economy can withstand a reduction in stimulus and that Chinese policy makers will step in to bolster slowing growth.

The value of global equities climbed to a record $63.9 trillion and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reached an all-time high this week.

Futures on the S&P 500 added less than 0.1 percent today. The U.S. equity benchmark index slipped 0.1 percent yesterday after a four-day rally drove it to a record.

Economists are predicting that an initial reading of U.S. gross domestic product will be revised today to a contraction for the first quarter. A separate report today is expected to show weekly jobless claims declined.

“Investors will probably blame the weather or seasonality if we get a bad GDP print from the U.S.,” Scott Schuberg, chief executive officer of Rivkin Securities in Sydney, said by phone. “There’s still enough willingness from the Federal Reserve to intervene if a bad print comes out.”

SingPost, Alibaba

SingTel, as Singapore’s biggest phone carrier is known, gained 1.6 percent to S$3.89, its highest price since Aug. 2. The company’s stake in SingPost will be reduced to about 23 percent from 26 percent following Alibaba’s acquisition of a 10 percent stake for S$312.5 million ($249 million), SingPost Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Baier said yesterday.

SingPost surged 8.4 percent to S$1.68, the most since it went public in 2003. The deal connects the company with billionaire Jack Ma as he expands Alibaba’s logistics to build a bigger network for shipping goods sold on its e-commerce platforms.

Smartwatch Market

Samsung Electronics rose 1.9 percent to 1.46 million won in Seoul. The company demonstrated a device called the Simband, which can measure heart rate and blood pressure, at an event yesterday in San Francisco. Global sales of smart watches, glasses and medical products totaled about $10 billion last year and are forecast to triple by 2018, according to researcher IHS.

Raw-material producers declined after copper futures dropped. BHP Billiton lost 1.3 percent to A$37.49 in Sydney. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-largest mining company, slipped 2.2 percent to A$60.07.

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