Most Asian stocks rose, with the benchmark index trading near a two-month high, as Chinese financial shares rose after the country raised interest rates, boosting their profit outlook and countering losses by Japanese nuclear-power generators.
Ping An Insurance (Group) Co, the nation's No 2 insurer by market value, increased 0.9 per cent in Hong Kong. Bank of Communications Co rose 1.2 per cent in Hong Kong, leading banks higher. Kansai Electric Power Co led a drop by Japanese electricity providers on concern the restart of idled reactors will be delayed by a government order for stress tests on all plants in Japan.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.04 point, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 137.39, reversing a gain of as much as 0.2 per cent and earlier declines of 0.4 per cent. About seven stocks gained for every six that fell on the 1,018-member gauge. China raised benchmark interest rates for a third time this year, adding to efforts to slow inflation.
"We've seen a marked cooling in China's growth recently and the next reading on inflation should mark a peak," said Nader Naeimi, a strategist for AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which has almost $100 billion (Dh367 billion) under management globally. "That suggests that we're coming close to the end of China's tightening cycle, and this should be positive for global growth, earnings and investor sentiment."
Through Wednesday, the Asia-Pacific index lost 2.4 per cent from this year's high on May 2 amid concern a slowing US economy, Europe's sovereign-debt crisis and China's steps to curb inflation will crimp earnings.
"China's interest-rate increase had already been factored into the market, but there is concern the country may keep raising rates," said Mitsushige Akino, who oversees about $600 million in Tokyo at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co in Tokyo. "We need to keep an eye on the movements in Chinese shares." Ping An advanced 0.9 per cent to HK$81.95 (Dh38.67). Rival AIA Group Ltd rose 1.7 per cent to HK$27.75, the biggest boost to Hong Kong's Hang Seng index. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd increased 0.2 per cent to HK$5.79.
Bank of Communications Co. rose 1.2 per cent to HK$7.46.
Financial shares posted the biggest gains on the Hang Seng Index yesterday after Barclays Plc and Citigroup said China's rate increase would be positive for banks' net-interest margins.
"The insurers remain well positioned to benefit when rates rise," analysts led by Mark Kellock wrote in a report today. "China's life insurers have reduced their exposure to longer- duration bonds in favour of shorter-dated deposits and cash with the expectation that interest rates would again rise in 2011, at which point they would be able to switch into longer-duration assets at higher rates."
Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 0.1 per cent as manufacturers fell amid uncertainty about the extent to which production will be curbed by power shortages from halted nuclear generators.
The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index, which tracks shares outside of Japan, advanced 0.3 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.1 per cent. South Korea's Kospi index rose 0.4 per cent in Seoul while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.5 point, or less than 0.1 per cent in Sydney.
From / Gulf News