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Asian Stocks up on economic recovery hopes

Asian Stocks up on economic recovery hopes
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First Published: Fri, May 15 2009. 12 56 PM IST
Updated: Fri, May 15 2009. 12 56 PM IST
Hong Kong: Asian stocks rose on Friday as investors bought shares that stood to benefit the most from an expected global recovery, but were set for their biggest weekly decline since March as volume thinned and some recent gains were cashed in.
US stock futures rose 0.2% while major European stock futures were up 0.6% after an overnight rise on Wall Street kept optimism about a recovery going despite a record contraction of the German economy in the first quarter.
The euro slid against the dollar after Germany reported gross domestic product shrank 3.8%, worse than expected, while the dollar slipped against the yen with dealers focused on pushing it below its 100-day moving average.
But investors were still looking to buy riskier assets after a leading indicator of Japan’s economy, one of the hardest hit in Asia, was not as bad as expected.
The data supported a regional theme that companies are replenishing deleted inventories as orders trickle in and the sharp decline in Asian exports is slowing.
However, consumer demand in the United States and Europe remains weak, and a sustainable global recovery is unlikely until confidence in those major markets returns.
Oil prices ticked higher, though were having difficulty hurdling $60 a barrel, especially after the International Energy Agency said on Thursday global demand for crude will reflect the sharpest decline this year since 1981.
Japan’s Nikkei share average rose 1.9%, with a 7% gain in Sony Corp stock among the biggest boosts to the index after the company forecast a smaller-than-expected annual loss.
“Despite a series of dismal earnings this time around, a sense of relief has spread in the market that nothing worse will likely come out at least until April-June earnings announcements,” said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a manager at SMBC Friend Securities in Tokyo.
The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan was up 1.8%. The materials, financial and technology sectors were the largest gainers, while utilities rose just 0.6 percent.
The index was down around 2.7% for the week and set to post its biggest weekly decline since early March, as economic data reminded investors that the road to recovery is likely to be a long and painful one.
However, it is still up 42% since 9 March, when the global equity rally began.
Equity markets were generally still seen in a bear market rally, which are common during recessions. For example, during the US recession in the early 1980s, the S&P 500 had two major bear market rallies that were each negated by subsequent declines.
The ICE futures US dollar index, which tracks the currency’s performance against a basket of six major currencies, was on the cusp of posting its fourth weekly decline, as investors increasingly shift to higher-yielding currencies.
In the last week, emerging market equities and bonds have been the biggest beneficiaries, with institutional investors apparently unperturbed by a rapid rise in valuations.
The growing willingness of investors to take bigger risks for the prospect of higher returns is dependent to some degree on a steady diet of positive economic surprises. Negative ones, like lower than expected US retail sales this week, dent confidence.
The New Zealand dollar tumbled 0.6 percent against both the US dollar and the yen after data showed retail sales volume falling by the most on record.
US crude for June delivery was trading around $58.65 a barrel largely unchanged on the day. Oil dealers were caught between bullishness based on rising equity markets and uncertainty about the outlook for fuel demand.
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First Published: Fri, May 15 2009. 12 56 PM IST
More Topics: Markets | Global | Asia | Nikkei | Hang Seng |