Asian stocks swung between gains and losses as Japanese exporters advanced after the dollar rose against the yen ahead of reports forecast to show the U.S. economic recovery is strengthening. Mining companies fell on lower metal prices.
Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Asia’s biggest carmaker by market value, rose 2.6 percent in Tokyo. The top three contributors to the MSCI Asia Pacific Index were Japanese exporters. Ricoh Co. (7752), an office-equipment maker, jumped 7.8 percent after Citigroup Inc. raised its rating to “buy” from “neutral.” Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700), a Chinese Internet company, gained 3.6 percent in Hong Kong after its fourth-quarter profit gained. Australian gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM) slid 3.3 percent.
“The U.S. still seems to be slowly but surely improving, and that’s definitely improving the mood of investors and forcing them to focus on taking more risk to capture what looks to be an improving outlook,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage $1 billion in equities at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. “Perhaps we are seeing a sustained devaluation of the yen, which would improve the outlook for Japanese exporters in particular.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.1 percent to 127.34 as of 2:21 p.m. in Tokyo, after falling as much as 0.3 percent. Half of the gauge’s 10 industry groups declined.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) advanced 0.8 percent. The yen weakened to as high as 84.18 per dollar today, the lowest level since April. A lower yen boosts the value of Japanese exporters’ overseas profits when repatriated.
Toyota rose 2.6 percent to 3,575 yen in Tokyo, while Honda Motor Co., a carmaker that gets more than 80 percent of its revenue overseas, increased 3 percent to 3,280 yen.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index (AS51) dropped 0.2 percent as metal producers declined on lower prices for commodities. Gold futures for April delivery retreated 3 percent in New York yesterday, while the London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six industrial commodities including copper and aluminum lost 1.1 percent.
Newcrest Mining, Australia’s biggest gold producer, slid 3.3 percent to A$30.27 in Sydney. BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s biggest mining company, fell 1.2 percent to A$35.18. They were the two of the three biggest drags on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.
Zhaojin Mining Industry Co., a Chinese gold producer, dropped 5.9 percent to HK$13.40 in Hong Kong, the steepest decline on the Asian benchmark gauge.
Korean, Chinese Stocks
South Korea’s Kospi Index was little changed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 0.2 percent as developers sank amid speculation China will continue its efforts to curb property prices. The Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP), which tracks the bigger of China’s stock exchanges, fell 0.3 percent.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday home prices remain far from reasonable and relaxing curbs could cause “chaos” in the market.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPXL1) rose 0.2 percent today. The index lost 0.1 percent in New York yesterday, snapping a five-day advance that drove the benchmark gauge for U.S. equities to the highest level since June 2008.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 12 percent this year through yesterday as reports showed strength in the U.S. economy, and as China reduced reserve ratios for major banks amid speculation it will further ease monetary policy. The gain compares with 11 percent increases by the S&P 500 and the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark were valued at 14.9 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.4 times for the S&P 500 and 11.2 times for the Stoxx 600.
The U.S. Labor Department may say today the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits fell by 5,000 to 357,000 in the week ended March 10, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. An index of manufacturing in the Philadelphia region may have increased to a reading of 12 in March from 10.2 the previous month, another estimate shows.
Ricoh rose 7.8 percent to 804 yen in Tokyo, the biggest gain in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. The company’s stock rating was raised to “buy” by Citigroup analyst Masahiro Shibano on expectation its profit for the next full-year will rebound.
Tencent gained 3.6 percent to HK$207.80 in Hong Kong. The company said its fourth-quarter profit rose 15 percent as it boosted sales of online games and social-networking services.
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