Asian stocks rally on US data

Asian stocks rally on US data

Singapore: Asian stocks climbed on Monday to their highest in more than two years in response to encouraging US economic data.

Economic reports on US durable goods orders and home sales were mixed on Friday, but traders focused on a rise in business spending in August as the latest sign of a firmer recovery.

The dollar steadied against the yen above 84 yen as selling by Japanese exporters and institutional investors ahead of the fiscal half-year end was offset by wariness of more yen-selling intervention by Japan.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1.4% for the benchmark’s biggest one-day gain in over a week, but market players said further rises would be held in check by the yen’s continued strength against the dollar.

“The dollar shot up above 85 yen last week on talk that there was intervention, but it hasn’t been able to sustain that kind of gain. It’s hard to buy stocks with the currency at this level," said Noritsugu Hirakawa, a strategist at Okasan Securities.

“If the yen would weaken there’d be a bit more buying interest. But on top of the strong yen there’s also a lot of events this week -- the BOJ tankan survey as well as US indicators -- so a lot of investors are sidelined."

Shares of consumer lenders, however, plunged after media said Takefuji Corp is making final preparations to file for bankruptcy protection from creditors, although the firm said later that it has not decided anything on such a move.

Takefuji, crippled by the reimbursement of overcharged interest, ended the day untraded and overwhelmed with sell orders, with the price indicated at 166 yen -- down 2.9% from Friday’s close.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan rose about 1.2%. The index is up more than 7% so far this year.

Shanghai stocks gained 1.4%, reopening after a three-day market holiday last week, boosted by strong gains in overseas markets and as record high gold prices supported stocks such as Shandong Gold Mining Co Ltd.

Gold powered to an all-time high at $1,300 an ounce as worries about the health of the global economy spurred buying, with top consumer India also defying high prices during the festive season.

“Shanghai shares are being supported by overseas markets such as the US and Hong Kong, which have strongly gained while our market was shut," said Guo Yanling, analyst at Shanghai Securities, who cautioned that the rebound is likely to be muted given more holidays next week for National Day.

Hong Kong stocks rose 1% to close at their highest level in more than eight months amid growing investor appetite for Asian equities, with local property developers continuing their strong run.

Shares of the local bourse operator, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEx), jumped 3.4%, bringing their monthly gains to over 25%, making them the top performers on the Hang Seng in September so far.

Investors have piled into HKEx shares on the back of a pickup in turnover, which contrasts with dull trading volumes seen in developed markets, growing IPO activity and expectations of new products being listed on the exchange as a consequence of China’s yuan liberalization policy.

Local developers also extended their recent rally with the sector enjoying its best month since May 2009. The Hang Seng property sub-index is up more than 15% month-to-date.

Australian stocks rose 1.6% to lock in a five-month closing high, as banks surged, while miners raced ahead on higher metal prices and conglomerate Wesfarmers hit its best since mid 2008.

Wesfarmers rose nearly 3%. The conglomerate revealed plans to invest more than A$600 million ($576 million) expanding its Bunnings hardware retail chain in the country’s most populous state.

South Korean shares rose 0.8%, fuelled by strong gains in shipbuilders such as Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd on hopes for new orders, and Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co Ltd amid stake sale expectations.

Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s fifth-largest automaker, said it will seek to buy Hyundai Engineering & Construction.

Hyundai Motor Co underperformed, ending flat, after news South Korea’s top automaker will recall about 139,500 Sonata sedans sold in the United States because of problems with the steering wheel.

Shares in Taiwan and India rose less than half a percent, while Singapore stocks rose 0.7%.

Silver, often considered the poor man’s gold, rose to a 30-year high as investors chased a cheaper alternative. The metal has gained nearly 30% this year, catching up with gold.

Oil hovered below $77 a barrel as the outlook for global economic recovery and future energy demand remained uncertain.