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Asia shares surge on US data; outlook upbeat

Asia shares surge on US data; outlook upbeat
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First Published: Mon, Mar 08 2010. 12 21 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Mar 08 2010. 12 21 PM IST
Singapore: Asian shares rose on Monday as encouraging US job and consumer data reinforced views that the world’s largest economy is steadily recovering, fuelling a move into riskier assets and out of safe havens like the yen.
European stocks were expected to follow Asia higher and open up as much as 0.5%, buoyed as well by easing concerns over Greece’s debt crisis, which supported the euro.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei average rose 2.1% while the broader Topix gained 1.8%. The MSCI index of Asian shares outside Japan was up 1.6%.
US Labour Department data on Friday showed employers cut fewer jobs than expected in February, suggesting that the economy may be strong enough to start creating new jobs soon.
Other US data showed consumer credit rose in January for the first time in a year. A resurgence in consumer spending is seen as vital to a sustainable global recovery.
Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the US stock market’s slide to 12-year closing lows on 9 March, 2009. Since then, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has climbed nearly 70%.
Asian stocks are likely to outperform other global markets in the coming months thanks to stronger earnings growth, said Andrew Pease, Senior Investment Strategist Asia-Pacific for Russell Investment and author of the Russell Asia Market Commentary.
Pease says that although Asia’s (ex-Japan) price-to-earnings ratio, relative to other markets, was high by historic standards, it could be justified by stronger medium-term growth prospects.
“In terms of asset class valuation, we see world equities as broadly fairly valued but we believe Asian equities have more profit potential,” Pease said. “At 12.5 times, Asia’s forward PE ratio is spot on the 20-year average.”
Asian company valuations were generally coming down to “attractive levels” and buyers were coming back into the market, said Lorraine Tan, director of Asia Equity Research with S&P.
She also said there were few other attractive options for investors and with the earnings season in Asia practically over, some uncertainties had been removed.
“There are more increases in earnings than reductions in expectations,” she said.
With 59% of Asia’s large and mid-cap companies having reported quarterly results out of a total of 705 firms, data from StarMine shows 57% had beaten or met market estimates.
Only Thailand bucked the Asian stock market trend, with the SET index slipping 0.35%, wary of plans for anti-government protests.
The yen fell broadly, with traders citing yen-selling by hedge funds. Currencies such as the Australian dollar rose against the yen, getting a boost from a rise in demand for equities and other risky assets.
“The US jobs report last week helped investor anticipation for further recovery in the next employment report and encouraged them to seek risky assets,” said Mitsuru Sahara, chief manager of currency derivatives trading at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
The yen was also weighed down by speculation that the Bank of Japan would further loosen its already lax monetary policy soon to address deflationary pressure.
The euro rose 0.5% against the yen to 123.66 yen, supported in part by comments from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who promised debt-laden Greece that euro zone countries would help it overcome its financial problems.
The dollar touched a two-week high against the yen of ¥90.69.
The dollar index was 0.3% lower at 80.189, with near-term support seen around 79.55/60 - its 17 February low - with the latest data showing currency speculators cutting by more than half their long bets on the US dollar in the week to 2 March.
In commodities markets, gold edged higher after ending about $20 higher last week as the Greece crisis ignited safe haven buying. Spot gold was trading at $1,134.62.
Crude oil for April delivery rose 43 cents to $81.93 a barrel, buoyed by the weaker dollar and the US jobs data.
The Nasdaq marked its highest close in 18 months on Friday. Both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at six-week highs with gains of more than 1%.
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First Published: Mon, Mar 08 2010. 12 21 PM IST
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