Asian stocks post longest winning streak this year

TRICKLE-DOWN::Positive data from the world’s No. 1 economy boosted markets in Asia, as investors set their hopes on a new Bank of Japan chief easing monetary policy

Bloomberg and AFP, Hong Kong

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 - Page 15

Asian stocks rose for a fourth week, the longest streak of gains this year, as US jobs data beat estimates and the Japanese parliament approved Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nominees to the country’s central bank board.

Nissan Motor Co advanced 2.4 percent, leading gains among companies that get sales in the US, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, Japan’s biggest publicly traded bank, rose 7.7 percent amid speculation that Abe will implement policies to stimulate the economy and end 15 years of falling prices.

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd (新鴻基地產) fell 7.6 percent, relinquishing its place as Asia’s biggest developer by value, as Hong-Kong-listed real-estate companies tumbled on concern that policymakers are stepping up efforts to cool home prices and as local mortgage rates were increased.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.8 percent to 136.66. The gauge has climbed 5.6 percent this year as data signaled the world’s biggest economy is recovering and investors bet that the Bank of Japan will loosen monetary policy. Chinese shares fell this week amid concern about government efforts to control prices.

The US jobs data “has shown the world’s largest economy is really starting to gain momentum and, of course, that’s all positive for financial markets,” Perpetual Investments’ Matthew Sherwood said.

Gains this year left the MSCI Asia Pacific Index trading at 14.9 times average estimated earnings, compared with 14.1 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.8 times for the STOXX Europe 600 Index, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Taiwan’s TAIEX slid 1.1 percent from 7,960.51 on March 8, ending Friday’s trading down 0.31 percent, or 24.27 points, at 7,927.49. Leading smartphone maker HTC Corp (宏達電) on Friday shed 2.7 percent to NT$234.5, as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) fell by 0.96 percent to NT$103.0.

South Korea’s KOSPI dropped 1 percent this week, as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid 2.4 percent, led by property developers, as data showed China’s consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in 10 months and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川) said monetary policy is “no longer relaxed.”

Only Italy’s FTSE MIB Index offered lower returns this year among the 24 developed market benchmarks monitored by Bloomberg.

Sun Hung Kai tumbled 7.6 percent to HK$106.20, the lowest level since October last year. New World Development Co (新世界發展) dropped 5.2 percent to HK$13.26.

China is set to complete a once-a-decade handover of power at the National People’s Congress in Beijing today. Leaders are trying to support a rebound in growth from a 13-year low without spurring excessive inflation or risks in the financial system. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 1.7 percent this week.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average increased 2.3 percent for the week to the highest level since September 2008. Haruhiko Kuroda, an advocate of aggressive monetary policy easing, was confirmed as Bank of Japan governor on Friday by parliament’s upper house, along with deputy governor nominees Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index rose for a fourth week, adding 0.8 percent, after Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Graeme Wheeler pledged to keep borrowing costs at a record low until next year.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and Singapore’s Straits Times Index both slipped 0.1 percent.

In other markets on Friday:

Mumbai fell 0.73 percent, or 142.88 points, from Thursday to 19,427.56.

Manila declined by 0.60 percent, or 40.11 points, to 6,654.60.

Wellington rose 0.14 percent, or 5.96 points, to 4,387.06