Asia Stocks Fluctuate as BlueScope Falls; Financial Shares Gain

Asian stocks fluctuated as a BlueScope Steel Ltd. loss dragged commodity companies lower, overshadowing gains by financial companies on a higher profit forecast from Tokio Marine Holdings Inc.

BlueScope, Australia’s largest steelmaker, slumped 3.1 percent. Komatsu Ltd., a Japanese machinery maker that counts China as its fastest-growing market, retreated 1.6 percent as China stepped up measures to slow its economic growth. Tokio Marine, Japan’s biggest casualty insurer, rose 2.5 percent. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank Ltd., an Australian regional lender, climbed 4.4 percent after reporting a more-than-doubling of first-half profit.

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“There’s mixed emotions in the market at the moment,” said Nader Naeimi, a senior investment strategist in Sydney at AMP Capital, which oversees about $90 billion globally. “It’s a tug of war between optimism over the improving macroeconomic backdrop and concern that the period of easy liquidity is coming to an end.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 116.32 as of 9:57 a.m. in Tokyo. The gauge has dropped 8.2 percent from a 17-month high on Jan. 15 on speculation central banks will tighten monetary policy, and that Greece, Spain and Portugal will struggle to curb deficits.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average was little changed, even as a government report showed the nation’s economic growth accelerated last quarter. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was also little changed. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.4 percent.

Markets in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia are closed today for the Lunar New Year. China’s ordered banks on Feb. 12 to set aside more deposits as reserves for the second time in a month, as loan growth quickened and property prices surged. The reserve requirement will increase 0.5 percentage point effective Feb. 25.

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The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 1.5 percent in the five days ended Feb. 12, the first weekly advance in four. Higher commodity prices buoyed mining companies, outweighing concern Greece’s mounting deficit will cripple an economic recovery in Europe. Stocks in the gauge trade at 18 times estimated earnings, compared with 14 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the U.S. and 12 times for Europe’s Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index.

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