Asian Stocks Pare 2015 Retreat Following Rallies in U.S., Europe

Asian stocks advanced, paring the regional measure’s annual retreat, as utilities and consumer shares gained following an equities rally in the U.S. and Europe.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.1 percent to 131.89 as of 4:25 p.m. in Hong Kong. About an equal number of stocks slid as gained on light volume across the region. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose for a ninth straight day, the longest winning streak since February.

The Asian equity gauge is poised for a 4.4 percent drop for the year, led by Singapore’s Noble Group Ltd. and Macau gaming companies. After outperforming global shares in the first six months of the year, Asian equities slid in the second half as China’s surprise yuan devaluation and concern about the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate outlook curbed investor appetite for the region’s stocks. The measure has steadied in December, poised for a 0.1 percent gain.

Investors responded to global moves and “relief that it looks like we’ll be able to end the year on a positive note," said Chihiro Ohta, general manager of investment information at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in Tokyo. “We’ll keep on being moved by the oil price. We’ll have to keep being aware of this for the first three months or the first half of next year as well.”

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.3 percent on the measure’s last trading day of the year. South Korea’s Kospi index and Singapore’s Straits Times Index each lost 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rallied 1 percent and New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 0.4 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index dropped 0.5 percent, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index retreated 1.3 percent as insurers led declines.

Toshiba Corp. jumped 7.7 percent in Tokyo. The maker of chips and home appliances is considering Fujifilm Holdings Corp. as one of the candidates to buy a stake in its medical equipment unit, Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing an unidentified person. Toshiba climbed on Tuesday as it sought $2.5 billion in credit line to pay for the cost of restructuring its businesses following an accounting scandal. Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd. advanced 1.4 percent in Sydney.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.2 percent. The underlying U.S. equity gauge climbed 1.1 percent on Tuesday as West Texas Intermediate crude jumped 2.9 percent.

A decline by the MSCI Asia Pacific Index this year would be the measure’s first back-to-back yearly loss since 2002. Shares on the gauge trade at 13.9 times estimated earnings, compared with 17.7 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 16.1 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Noble is down 64 percent this year. Asia’s largest commodities trader that is battling criticism of its accounting had its credit rating cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service on concerns about the company’s liquidity amid slumping energy and raw materials prices.

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