Asia Stocks Rise as Nikkei 225 Tops 19,000 First Time Since 2000

Asian stocks rose, with industrial companies rising most as the regional equity gauge followed a rebound in U.S. shares. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average closed above 19,000 for the first time in almost 15 years.

Fanuc Corp. soared 13 percent to a record in Tokyo after President Yoshiharu Inaba said the factory-robotics maker may boost dividends and buy back shares. Bank of China Ltd. added 2.1 percent in Hong Kong after the People’s Bank of China endorsed the flow of credit funds into equities. Health-care stocks led declines among the regional gauge’s 10 industry groups today, with Eisai Co. dropping 5.3 percent after the drug company gained 9.1 percent the previous two days.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.2 percent to 144.13 as of 4:03 p.m. in Hong Kong, paring this week’s decline to 0.9 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index jumped 1.3 percent on Thursday as bets the Federal Reserve would push forward an interest-rate increase were tempered by a three-month drop in retail sales. The U.S. equity gauge fell earlier this week as a better-than-forecast jobs report fueled tightening concerns.

“When the Fed starts to raise rates that’s only because the U.S. economy is stronger, and that’s a good news story not a bad one,” Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which manages about $118 billion, told Bloomberg TV. “I have a bullish view that things will turn out OK, that the Fed is tightening because of stronger growth and that growth will continue.”

The Nikkei 225 surged 1.4 percent, closing at its highest since April 2000. Japan’s Topix index added 0.9 percent to cap an eight-week gain. After trailing U.S. shares for six years in dollar terms, the Topix is finally beating them, rising 9 percent this year compared with a 0.3 percent advance for the S&P 500.

China Credit

The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.7 percent, pushing its weekly advance to 4.1 percent. PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said at a press conference on Thursday that he disagreed with the view that credit funds flowing to the equity market aren’t helpful to economic growth.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland firms listed in Hong Kong advanced 1.3 percent today, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index added 0.1 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi index gained 0.8 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slid 0.6 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.4 percent.

Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent. Data yesterday showed U.S. retail sales dropped 0.6 percent in February from the previous month, compared with expectations for a 0.3 percent gain in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Fed funds futures put the odds of a U.S. rate increase in September at 53 percent on Thursday, down from 56 percent on Wednesday, though still above the 49 percent priced in March 5, the day before the February payrolls report.

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