Asian stocks gained this week, driving up the MSCI Asia-Pacific Index by the most in seven weeks as concern eased that the Federal Reserve will raise borrowing costs to curb inflation.
Evergreen Marine Corp (長榮海運), Asia’s largest container-shipping line, surged 11 percent in Taipei after boosting freight rates. Li & Fung Ltd (利豐), which gets 62 percent of sales from the US, gained 2.9 percent in Hong Kong as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said low interest rates are still needed to boost growth. Woolworths Ltd, Australia’s biggest retailer, advanced 4 percent in Sydney after reporting higher profit and announcing a share buyback.
“Bernanke stuck to the script and emphasized the Fed’s commitment to maintaining interest rates at low levels until the economic recovery becomes self-sustaining,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage about US$1.1 billion of equity investments at Pengana Capital Ltd in Melbourne.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index gained 2.4 percent to 118.07 this week, the most since the week ended Jan. 8. The gauge has lost 6.9 percent from a 17-month high on Jan. 15 on speculation central banks will start withdrawing stimulus measures. It has risen 1.5 percent this month.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 3.6 percent this week, the biggest gain in the Asia-Pacific region, as the city’s economic growth beat estimates.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose less than 0.1 percent to 10,126.03 as the nation’s exports and factory output increased.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index increased 1.1 percent, resuming trade after a one-week holiday for the Lunar New Year, as the government said it will extend support for the country’s industries amid weak global demand.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index surged 34 percent last year as governments worldwide boosted spending and central banks lowered interest rates to help restore economies battered by the global recession. The gauge has fallen about 2.3 percent this year on signs governments from China to the US and India will tighten lending and withdraw stimulus policies.
Japanese exports climbed at the fastest pace in almost 30 years last month and the country’s factory output increased for the 11th straight month, government reports said this week.
Taiwan’s TAIEX index rose 9.1, or 0.1 percent, to 7,436.1 at the close of Taipei trading on Friday. The benchmark index was little changed for the week and fell 2.7 percent this month.
Coretronic Corp (中強光電) rose 2.7 percent to NT$43.85 after the Economic Daily News reported sales of the company’s liquid-crystal-display backlight products will rise 30 percent this year from last year.
Hua Nan Financial Holdings Co (華南金控) gained 3.6 percent to NT$20 on speculation investors are buying the stock ahead of a board election, Masterlink Securities Corp (元富證券) analyst Greg Ou said.
“There has been ongoing speculation the government may increase its board member seats in the coming board elections,” Ou said in a telephone interview in Taipei.
Other markets on Friday:
Singapore closed flat, edging up 1.71 points from Thursday to 2,750.86.
Seoul rose 0.45 percent, or 7.07 points, from Thursday to 1,594.58.
Wellington gained 0.14 percent, or 4.42 points, from Thursday to close at 3,156.10.
Manila closed 0.41 percent, or 12.49 points, higher from Thursday at 3,043.75.
Bangkok rose 0.60 percent, or 4.27 points, from Thursday to close at 721.37. Trading was relatively heavy for the market, with nearly 20 billion baht exchanged, despite Thailand being on edge as it awaits a court verdict on the fate of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s US$2.3 billion fortune.