Sydney/Singapore: Asian stocks climbed for the fourth time in five days. Inpex Holdings Inc. and BHP Billiton Ltd led energy producers higher after the price of oil rose to a six-month high.
“We’re not used to seeing sustained positive moves in oil the past year, so that explains the interest in oil stocks,’’ said Matthew Kidman, who manages the equivalent of $350 million (Rs1,505 crore) at Wilson Asset Management in Sydney.
Honda Motor Co. and Rinker Group Ltd led declines among companies that sell to the US after consumer confidence and home prices fell in the region’s largest export market.
The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index added 0.2% to 145.63 as of 11:18 am in Tokyo. A measure of energy stocks jumped 1.3%, the biggest advance among its 10 industry groups.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.2% to 17,393.11, while the broader Topix index rose 0.1%. Orient Corp. led consumer lenders higher after Mizhuo Financial Group Inc. prepared to announce a financial aid plan.
Benchmarks gained in Australia, Hong Kong and China. They fell in markets open for trading elsewhere.
Inpex, Japan’s largest oil producer, jumped 3.9% to 1.01 million yen. BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company and Australia’s No. 1 oil explorer, gained 0.3% to A$29.88. Woodside, Australia’s second-largest oil explorer, rose 1% to A$39.40.
Crude oil for May delivery rose as much as 2.4% to $64.46 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading in New York on speculation supplies from the Middle East will be disrupted if a confrontation erupts in the Persian Gulf over the seizure of British servicemen by Iran. Futures were recently at $63.90, the highest for a front-running contract since 13 September.
“Energy-related shares may stay strong for the time being as the tension in the Middle East is keeping oil prices high,’’ said Junichi Misawa, who oversees $655 million at STB Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
Honda, Japan’s second-largest automaker by market value, fell 1.4% to 4,140 yen. The company had more than half of its sales in North America last business year. Rinker, the biggest supplier of cement blocks in the US, lost 2.3% to A$17.30.
US stocks posted their steepest losses in two weeks as a drop in measures of consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, and home prices added to concern a housing crisis will snuff out economic growth. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 0.6%.
Signs of Slowing
The Conference Board’s index of consumer sentiment dropped to 107.2 this month from 111.2 in February. Meanwhile, home values fell 0.2% in January from a year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, a measure of home prices in 20 US metropolitan areas. The decrease was the first since the group started the index in January 2001.
The reports came after a day after new-home sales in the US dropped 3.9% to an annual pace of 848,000 in February. Economists had predicted they would rise to a 985,000 rate, according to a Bloomberg News survey.
“Stocks may remain weak today on signs the US economy is slowing,’’ said Yoshinori Nagano, who helps manage about $70 billion at Daiwa Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.
Samsung Electronics Co., which accounted for about 16% of South Korean exports last year, slid 0.5% to 576,000 won. Sony Corp., the world’s No. 2 maker of consumer electronics which made 70% of its sales overseas last year, fell 1.5% to 6,120 yen. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world’s largest contract manufacturer, declined 1.6% to NT$218.50.
Japan’s Orient jumped 8.8% to 149 yen. Mizuho, Japan’s No. 2 bank by assets, will announce a financial aid plan for Orient today, said Masako Shiono, a spokeswoman in Tokyo.
Acom Co., Japan’s second-biggest consumer finance company, jumped 6.5% to 4,740 yen. Credit Saison Co., a credit card company, climbed 1.3% to 3,940 yen.
Tokyo-based Orient said earlier this month it expects to post a 457.9 billion yen ($3.89 billion) net loss for the year ending 31 March, citing reserves for interest repayments and bad-loans. Hiroyuki Matsumoto, Orient’s spokesman, declined to comment today.
Orient will receive a total of 75 billion yen in capital from Mizuho and Itochu Corp., the Nikkei newspaper reported earlier, without saying where it obtained the information.
In Taiwan, shares of AU Optronics Corp. dropped after Benq Corp., the country’s largest maker of branded consumer electronics, said it plans to sell 100 million shares, or about 1.3%, of AU Optronics.
AU Optronics, the world’s third-largest liquid-crystal display maker, dropped 2.4% to NT$46.45. Benq slid 2.3% to NT$13.