Asian stocks rallied the most in three weeks and commodities rose as data showed Japan’s economy shrank less than initially estimated and Greece moved closer to completing its debt swap. The yen fell after Japan reported a record current account deficit.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index (MXAP) advanced 1.1 percent as of 1:17 p.m. in Tokyo, snapping a three-day drop. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average jumped 1.6 percent and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures added 0.2 percent. The yen weakened against all 16 major peers, while the South Korean won gained 0.6 percent. The S&P GSCI Index of 24 commodities rose 0.3 percent, with nickel, lead and zinc leading gains in metals. Bond risk in Asia declined.Japan’s gross domestic product shrank an annualized 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an earlier estimate for a 2.3 percent contraction, the government said. Investors with about 60 percent of eligible Greek bonds have agreed to participate in the world’s biggest sovereign debt restructuring. Data later today may show rising German industrial production and U.S. jobless claims probably stayed at an almost four-year low, according to economists’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
“We have space to rally and I think the markets are going higher,” Marino Valensise, chief investment officer at Baring Asset Management Ltd. said in a Bloomberg Television interview from Hong Kong. The firm oversees $46 billion. “Greece is okay for now, but this is a short-term solution to a longer-term problem.”
Greece’s largest banks, most of the country’s pension funds, and more than 30 European banks and insurers have agreed to the debt swap. The goal of the exchange is to reduce privately held Greek debt and turn the tide against the debt crisis that has roiled Europe for more than two years. The offer ends at 10 p.m. Athens time today.
S&P 500 futures expiring in March climbed to 1,355.20. The U.S. equity benchmark advanced 0.7 percent yesterday. The Labor Department will report tomorrow monthly jobs data, which economists forecast will show an increase of 225,000 private jobs and total non-farm payrolls growth of 210,000.
The Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) rose 1 percent on speculation the government will increase efforts to stimulate the economy. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong rallied 1.5 percent.
“Investors are watching for any new government measures to boost the economy,” said Chen Liqiu, a strategist at Jianghai Securities Co. in Shanghai. “The global economy has improved recently. That’s good for sentiment but we need more long-term concrete data to increase overall confidence.”
China’s shrinking dominance over global economic growth is driving trading in the options market. Options on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index cost the most since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. when compared with contracts on U.S. stocks. The difference, or skew, shows investors are increasingly bearish on the index of Hong Kong-traded China shares after it surged as much as 46 percent since October.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.7 percent and South Korea’s Kospi Index (KOSPI) climbed 0.8 percent. The MSCI Asia gauge has fallen 1.9 percent this week, paring the year-to-date advance to 10 percent.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) suppliers rose after the company introduced a new version of the iPad. LG Display Co. added 1.6 percent and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. increased 1.9 percent in South Korea. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. advanced 2.2 percent in Taiwan.
South Korea’s won strengthened as the central bank held off raising borrowing costs for a ninth straight month. Policy makers in Asia are grappling with higher fuel costs that threaten to boost inflation pressures amid signs of an improving U.S. economy and progress in resolving Europe’s debt crisis.
The yen declined 0.2 percent to 81.22 per dollar. The currency has weakened 6.1 percent in the past three months in the worst performance among 10 developed-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes.
Three-month copper increased 0.3 percent to $8,319 a metric on the London Metal Exchange. Inventories tracked by the LME have fallen 24 percent this year to the lowest level since July 2009. Aluminum, zinc and lead rose at least 0.7 percent. Oil for April delivery gained 0.2 percent to $106.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The cost of insuring Asia-Pacific bonds from default dropped, according to traders of credit-default swaps. The Markit iTraxx Asia index of 40 investment-grade borrowers outside Japan fell 3 basis points to 163.5 basis points, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc prices show. The index is headed for the lowest close since March 5, according to CMA.