Sun, Feb 06, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Asia stocks cap biggest gain this year

Agencies, with staff writer

Asian stocks rose this week, capping the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index’s biggest weekly advance this year, as US economic reports boosted confidence in a global recovery and Japanese companies reported improving earnings.

“The economic cycle is starting to look normal again even if the background is far from normal,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy in Sydney at AMP Capital Investors Ltd, which manages about US$93 billion. “You’ve got a combination of good US economic data coming out, plus some pretty fantastic earnings news. It reinforces the view that we’re on to a more sustainable recovery.”

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index rose 1.36 percent to 139.52 in the past five days for the sharpest weekly increase this year, as improving corporate earnings overshadowed concern over anti-government protests in Egypt.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average increased 1.8 percent this week. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index also gained 1.8 percent as the Reserve Bank of Australia said the nation’s economy will expand more than previously forecast this year on flood rebuilding after a cyclone that tore through the nation’s northeast coast.

Indian stocks fell 2.39 percent on Friday as investors unwound positions ahead of the weekend on fresh concerns over unrest in Egypt, rising crude oil prices and inflation.

The benchmark SENSEX fell 441.16 points to 18,008.15, a five-month-low. Bank, metals and property stocks were hardest hit.

The country’s annual food inflation stands at 17.05 percent and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned on Friday that high inflation threatened rapid economic growth and needed to be brought under control with “great urgency.”

Stock markets in Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore were closed most of this week for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Taiwanese share prices closed up 0.47 percent on Jan. 28 as rotational buying focused on select old economy and financial stocks amid optimism over their close business ties with China, dealers said.

The TAIEX rose 43.02 points to 9,145.35, after moving between 9,095.71 and 9,154.93, on turnover of NT$143.05 billion (US$4.92 billion).

Jan. 28 was the last trading session in Taipei before the Lunar New Year holiday. Trading will resume on Tuesday.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index has increased about 1 percent this year and 19 percent in the past 12 months. Stocks in the gauge are valued at about 14 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 19 times a year ago.

In other markets on Friday:

Manila fell 0.42 percent, or 16.20 points, from Thursday to 3,872.35 in thin trading.

Wellington rose 0.53 percent, or 17.93 points, from Thursday to 3,367.82 after a second potential bidder emerged for agricultural services firm PGG Wrightson.

PGG Wrightson, whose shares jumped 12.7 percent to NZ$0.62, did not identify the company but said it was a “bona fide potential bidder.”

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