Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark headed for its sixth weekly gain, as energy and mining companies rallied and Japanese shares advanced after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda pressed the central bank to take “bold” action to stem the yen’s increase.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL) paced gains among energy and mining companies as oil and metal prices gained. NEC Corp. slid 7.1 percent after the Japanese maker of personal computers forecast its third loss in four years and said it will cut 10,000 jobs. Li & Fung Ltd., a supplier of toys and clothes to retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., rose 2.9 percent ahead of a report today that economists say will show U.S. economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (TPX) rose 0.3 percent to 122.94 as of 12:30 p.m. in Tokyo. The measure has risen 1.8 percent this week, set for a sixth weekly gain, the longest streak since the period ended Oct. 15.
“Stocks are reacting to Noda’s comments,” said Takeru Ogihara, chief strategist in Tokyo at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co., a unit of Japan’s third-largest lender by market value. “Japanese exporters want the government to make a show of support.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.4 percent, and South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent. Stock markets in China, Vietnam and Taiwan are shut today for the Lunar New Year holiday.
U.S. Data, Fed
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.1 percent today. The gauge lost 0.6 percent in New York yesterday as reports showed that sales of new homes declined in December, claims for U.S. jobless benefits rose last week, and durable goods orders beat estimates last month. The Federal Reserve on Jan. 25 extended its pledge to keep interest rates low and said it is considering additional asset purchases to spur growth.
“The U.S. housing and employment data looks weak, and it isn’t a problem that will be easily solved,” said Seiichiro Iwamoto, who helps oversee about $35 billion at Mizuho Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “The whole world is moving toward monetary easing. Europe and the U.S. are injecting a lot of liquidity, and that’s boosting commodities.”
A report today will show U.S. gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter after advancing 1.8 percent in the previous quarter, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Energy and mining shares rose as crude oil for March delivery was at $99.85 a barrel, up 15 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six industrial metals including copper and aluminum rose 2.4 percent yesterday.
Woodside Petroleum, an Australian oil and gas producer, added 2.3 percent to A$34.76. Inpex Corp. (1662), Japan’s No. 1 energy explorer, advanced 2.9 percent to 528,000 yen, while smaller Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. climbed 1.3 percent to 3,420 yen. BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s No. 1 mining company, rose 1.3 percent to A$37.88.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (TPX) gained 7.7 percent this year through yesterday, compared with increases of 4.8 percent by the S&P 500 and 5.4 percent by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 1.3 times book value. That compares with 2.1 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the U.S. and 1.4 times for the Europe Stoxx 600 Index in Europe.
NEC slumped 7.1 percent to 156 yen after the maker of mobile phones, computers and wireless gear yesterday forecast a 100 billion-yen loss for the year ending March 31, abandoning a previous outlook for a 15 billion-yen profit. It will also take a charge of 40 billion yen for the job cuts, the Tokyo-based firm said.
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