Asia’s Biggest Stock Markets Rise Before U.S. Data; Japan Gains

  • China’s official PMI gauge climbed to highest in two years
  • Energy companies extended declines after Wednesday’s oil slump

China's Factory Index Climbs to Highest Since 2014

Stocks in Asia’s largest equity markets climbed before a U.S. jobs report Friday as Japanese shares advanced and a surprise gain in a Chinese manufacturing gauge drove a rally in Hong Kong equities. Developing-nation shares slumped.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 138.05 at 5:30 p.m. in Tokyo after capping two months of gains. Japan’s Topix index rose 0.6 percent as the yen traded at 103.35 to the dollar. The Hang Seng Index rallied to a one-year high after China’s official factory gauge unexpectedly climbed in August to the highest level in almost two years. Macau casino operators surged after gambling revenue in the city rebounded. Energy and materials stocks slid as Indonesia led emerging-market shares lower in Asia.

The Chinese data was “a nice surprise for everyone because most were noticing the deceleration of the PMI trend in the past few months,” said Khiem Do, the head of multi-asset strategy at Baring Asset Management (Asia) Ltd. in Hong Kong. “What we need to watch out for right now is the possible Fed interest-rate hike in the next few weeks.”

Gains of Asian equities last month were spurred by a rebound in Japanese stocks after growing expectations for a U.S. rate rise boosted the dollar at the expense of the yen, benefiting exporters. Investors are now shifting focus to the U.S. employment data due on Friday, a key economic report that could sway the Federal Reserve to take action when it reviews monetary policy in three weeks.

Banks and automakers advanced in Japan, extending gains this week with the yen hovering close to a one-month low against the dollar. The Japanese currency has weakened this week with investors betting on a sooner-than-expected rate increase by the Fed following Chair Janet Yellen’s hawkish remarks last Friday. Economists predict Friday’s employment report will show jobs growth slowed to 180,000 last month from 255,000 in July.

Hang Seng

The Hang Seng Index advanced 0.8 percent to its highest level since Aug. 19, 2015, while a gauge of mainland Chinese shares in Hong Kong added 0.7 percent. China’s manufacturing purchasing managers index rose to 50.4 in August from July’s 49.9 and compared to the 49.8 median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The rebound in August is fueling optimism the nation’s economy is stabilizing, giving policy makers more room for reforms of state-owned firms. The Shanghai Composite Index slid to the lowest in almost three weeks.

Samsung Card Co. jumped 15 percent in Seoul, the most since 2007, after saying it plans a share buyback. South Korea’s Kospi index lost 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 0.3 percent, while New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index added 0.3 percent.

Indonesia’s Jakarta Composite Index slid 1.2 percent. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index fell to the lowest since July 8 as foreign fund managers pulled money out of the nation last week at the fastest pace in a year. Vietnam’s VN Index dropped the most in a month.

A gauge of Asian energy companies dropped 0.7 percent after the Energy Information Administration showed crude inventories climbed 2.28 million barrels, more than the 1.3 million-barrel gain projected by analysts, sending oil to its worst decline in a month Wednesday.

“The EIA report raised some issues, obviously the crude inventory was much larger than the market envisioned,” Angus Nicholson, a market analyst in Melbourne at IG Ltd. said by phone. “It has been a very quiet August, and markets seem to be livening up a bit as people come back from the holidays and there’s a whole lot of new data that needs to be priced into markets.”

Futures on the S&P 500 Index gained 0.3 percent in its most recent trading. The U.S. equity benchmark dropped Wednesday to erase its August advance after the selloff in oil sent stocks lower. The S&P 500 closed 0.1 percent down last month, ending its longest run of gains in two years as it failed to budge more than 1 percent in either direction for a 38th day.

West Texas Intermediate crude climbed 0.3 percent after falling 6.2 percent the previous three sessions. Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the world’s biggest oil exporter won’t boost output to capacity and flood the market. His comments come as OPEC members plan to meet next month to discuss ways to stabilize crude prices.

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