Singapore/Tokyo: Asian stocks rose, approaching a record, after U.S. retail sales and earnings reports helped drive the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a six-year high.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. led gains among companies that rely on sales to the U.S., the biggest buyer of the region’s exports.
“Investor concern over the U.S. economy has been eased with solid gains in the nation’s earnings and equity markets,’’ said Hiroshi Chano, who helps look after $7.3 billion (Rs30,632 crore) at Yasuda Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “I expect exporter shares will lead the market for the time being.’’
Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained after Citigroup Inc., the largest U.S. lender, reported earnings that beat analyst estimates. A bigger-than-expected profit at China Merchants Bank Co. and record net income at Malaysia’s Public Bank Bhd also helped lift financial shares.
The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index added 0.3% to 148.18 as of 11:03 am in Tokyo, just shy of the record close of 148.69 set 27 February. Benchmarks in Australia, China, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea were all headed for new highs.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average climbed 0.2% to 17,665.53, while the broader Topix index was little changed. New Zealand was the only market open for trading that declined.
U.S. shares rose yesterday after Citigroup and Eli Lilly & Co. announced better-than-expected earnings and student-loan provider SLM Corp. attracted a $25 billion takeover bid. The S&P 500 climbed 1.1% to its highest since September 2000.
Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker by value, rose 0.7% to 7,270 yen. Toyota made about 63% of its total sales outside Japan last year. Taiwan Semiconductor, the world No. 1 maker of customized chips, gained 1.6% to NT$68.60. Its customers include Intel Corp., the world’s largest semiconductor maker.
Retail sales in the U.S. rose 0.7% in March, the most in three months, following a revised 0.5% gain the prior month that was larger than previously estimated, according to the Commerce Department.
Westfield Group, the world’s No. 1 owner of shopping malls, added 1% to A$21.28. Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest automaker, rose 0.3% to 65,000 won.
“The mood is more buoyant than it has been for some time,’’ said Angus Gluskie, who helps manage about $380 million at White Funds Management in Sydney. “The sequence of consecutive gains in the U.S. has left investors more comfortable to keep buying.’’
Commonwealth Bank, Australia’s second-biggest lender, gained 1.3% to A$52.86. National Australia Bank Ltd, the largest, rose 0.7% to A$43.68.
Shares of Citigroup rose 2.6% yesterday, the best performance in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Profit excluding an $871 million charge to cut 5% of staff was $1.18 a share, beating analyst estimates by 9 cents.
China Minsheng Banking Corp., the country’s only non-state bank, gained 1.5% to 13.09 yuan. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd, the nation’s largest, climbed 0.4% to 5.54 yuan.
China Merchants, the nation’s seventh-largest lender, said 2006 profit surged 81% from a year earlier to 6.79 billion yuan ($879 million). That exceeded the average 6.1 billion yuan estimate of 20 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The stock will resume trading at 10:30 am local time.
Public Bank, Malaysia’s No. 3 lender, said first-quarter profit rose 23% to 476 million ringgit ($138 million) as it earned more from lending, fees and Islamic banking. The stock gained 1.6% to 9.40 ringgit.
Elsewhere, Tokyo Electron Ltd, the world’s second-biggest supplier of chipmaking equipment, jumped 3.9% to 8,900 yen. Goldman, Sachs & Co. raised the stock’s rating to “buy’’ from “neutral,’’ while HSBC Holdings Plc lifted its earnings estimates for the company’s financial years ending March 2008 and March 2009.