Asian Stocks Rise as U.S. Consumer Confidence Highest in 6 Years

Mar 26, 2014 4:52 am ET

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks rose after U.S. consumer confidence climbed to a six-year high, buoying investor optimism about the outlook for the world’s biggest economy.

Samsung Electronics Co., a consumer electronics maker that gets a fifth of its revenue in America, rose 3 percent in Seoul. China Mengniu Dairy Co., the country’s largest dairy producer, soared 8.6 percent in Hong Kong after posting a 25 percent profit gain last year. Kirin Holdings Co. advanced 2.6 percent on a report the Japanese beverage maker will raise its annual dividend and consider share buybacks.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 1 percent to 135.59 as of 5:44 p.m. in Tokyo, with about two stocks rising for each that fell. All but one of its 10 industry groups advanced.

“Early signs are that U.S. growth is back on track with consumer confidence holding up and the market growing more confident that some of the data through the winter was weather- related,” Sean Fenton, who helps oversee about $1 billion as Sydney-based fund manager at Tribeca Investment Partners Ltd., said by phone. “We have seen a stabilization in China recently and there is a good chance we are through the worst.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 0.7 percent, while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares traded in the city rose 1.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.2 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index rose 0.6 percent, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 1.3 percent.

Japan’s Topix index increased 0.7 percent and South Korea’s Kospi index advanced 1.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 0.8 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 0.1 percent.

U.S. Futures

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The measure gained 0.4 percent yesterday, snapping a two-day loss. The Conference Board’s index of U.S. consumer confidence rose to 82.3 in March, the highest since January 2008, from 78.3 a month earlier, the New York-based private research group said yesterday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 76 economists called for a reading of 78.5 this month.

Another report showed purchases of new homes in the U.S. fell in February to the lowest level in five months, a sign the industry may take time to pick up after inclement weather damped demand earlier in the year. Residential real-estate prices climbed at a slower pace in the year through January than a month earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities.

Exporters Rise

Companies that do business in the U.S. rose. Samsung advanced 3 percent to 1,285,000 won. Komatsu Ltd., a Japanese construction-machinery maker that generates 22 percent of revenue in the Americas, rose 1.9 percent to 2,097 yen.

China Mengniu jumped 8.6 percent to HK$38.60 after its full-year profit climbed 25 percent to 1.63 billion yuan ($263 million), beating analysts’ estimate of 1.5 billion yuan.

Kirin added 2.6 percent to 1,362 yen. The company will raise its annual dividend to at least 40 yen a share next fiscal year and consider stock buybacks of tens of billions of yen by the end of December 2015, the Nikkei newspaper reported, citing an interview with Senji Miyake, the brewer’s president.

Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., the nation’s third-largest lender, surged 3.4 percent to HK$3.31. The company’s fourth- quarter net income jumped 13 percent to 28.3 billion yuan from a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations based on full- year profit. The results beat the 27.9 billion-yuan average estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

U.S. President Barack Obama urged Russia to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine or face the consequences of more sanctions if it encroaches further into the east of the country after its annexation of Crimea.

Russia’s Choice

President Vladimir Putin “has to understand that there’s a choice to be made here,” Obama told reporters after a 53-nation nuclear-security summit in The Hague yesterday, saying there’s “another path open” to the Russian leader. “It is now up to Russia to act responsibly and show itself once again willing to abide by international rules and international norms.”

The Asia-Pacific gauge traded at 12.6 times estimated earnings as of yesterday, compared with 15.9 for the S&P 500 and 14.4 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.