Asia Gains on Strong Australia, China Data
Asian stocks rose for the third day in a row on Thursday, powered by strong economic data from Australia and China, and as investors mulled a possible bailout of Greece and the Fed’s exit strategy.
Trading volume was thin though, with Japan closed for the National Foundation Day public holiday, and Taiwan’s stock market shut from February 11-19 for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Seoul shares advanced 1.4 percent, driven by automakers and financials, with the Bank of Korea’s widely-expected rate hold decision having a limited impact on the market.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) gained 22 points to 1,592.6 by mid-day.
South Korea’s central bank on Thursday kept its key interest rate steady at record-low 2.0 percent for a 12th month, as expected, in the face of strong political pressure and growing global economic uncertainties.
Financials fueled gains, with KB Financial Group climbing 3.3 percent despite its weak fourth quarter results as investors bet on stronger 2010 earnings, analysts said.
KB Financial’s weaker-than-expected results were due mainly to aggressive loan write-offs related to the troubled Kumho Asiana Group, said Kim In, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities.
Hyundai Motor, South Korea’s top automaker, gained 1.75 percent amid Japanese rival Toyota’s ongoing recall crisis.
Shares in Kia Motors, South Korea’s No.2 automaker, were up 1.45 percent.
Samsung Securities climbed 0.81 percent ahead of its quarterly results expected after the market close on Thursday.
Samsung Securities’ earnings during the October-December period are expected to have nearly doubled to 64.8 billion won from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Jobs Data Lifts Australian Stocks
Australian stocks rose 0.9 percent, boosted by strong local jobs data which eclipsed a disappointing result from phone company Telstra and wider concerns about U.S. monetary policy.
The jobs growth, which came in more than three times stronger than forecast, showed the domestic economy continued to recover faster than anyone had dared hope a year ago.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index [AU;XJO 4550.8 37.383 (+0.83%) ] rose 40.7 points to 4,554.1.
Telstra shares fell 3.8 percent to A$3.26, touching a two-month low, after it reported a dip in half-year profit and warned investors of a tough operating environment.
Global miner Rio Tinto jumped 2.6 percent to A$69.73 as market expectations build ahead of its annual results, after a stronger-than-expected result from rival BHP Billiton on Wednesday. Rio’s gains came despite the indictment of four of its China-based employees on charges of stealing commercial secrets and bribery.
Gloves and condoms maker Ansell gained 2.6 percent to A$10.26 as it announced it had appointed Magnus Nicolin as chief executive.
Arrow Energy gained 1.8 percent to A$3.46 after it said it would fully acquire the Fisherman’s Landing LNG project from partner Liquefied Natural Gas.
Shares in building materials firm James Hardie Industries jumped as much as 3 percent to A$7.90 as the company reported a 66 percent rise in third-quarter profit on a strong performance from its U.S. businesses.
HK Gains 1.4%
Hong Kong shares trekked higher, as market sentiment improved further underpinned by a firm China market and weaker-than-expected rise in China’s CPI.
China’s consumer price inflation unexpectedly slowed to 1.5 percent in the year to January, versus market forecast for a 2.0 percent rise in the CPI following a 1.9 percent increase in the year to December.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index climbed 1.4 percent or 290 points to 20,220.1.
SMIC surged 11.1 percent to HK$0.70, its highest in three weeks, before steadying at HK$0.69. China’s biggest contract chipmaker on Wednesday unveiled an overhaul of its top management, as it moves toward a goal of sustained profitability after the recent installation of a new chief executive.
Bank of East Asia, Hong Kong’s fifth largest lender, rose as much as 2.8 percent to a week high at HK$27.45 ahead of the release of expected strong earnings. The lender is due to announce its final results for the year ended in December later on Thursday.
Shares of Bank of Communications, China’s No. 5 lender, advanced to a one-week high, up 4.4 percent to HK$8.04, after an investment arm of the bank said on Wednesday that it aims to raise $250 million to $500 million for a private equity fund focused on investing in China.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.1 percent to 2,987.1 points.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore’ Straits Times Index rose 0.5 percent, supported by firmer bank stocks and other blue-chips. CapitaLand, the region’s biggest property firm, climbed 1.3 percent after it posted an 11 fold rise in quarterly profit, helped by a massive one-time gain from the listing of its shopping arm.