Sunday, December 23, 2007

Asian Stocks Rise for Second Day; Hon Hai, BHP Lead Advance

By Hanny Wan and Kyung Bok Cho

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks rose for a second day, led by electronics makers, after consumer spending increased more than forecast in the U.S., the region's biggest export market.

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which makes iPods for Apple Inc., and Samsung Electronics Co. climbed to the highest in more than a week. The U.S. Standard & Poor's index advanced the most in three weeks on Dec. 21 after the report on November spending eased concern about recession in the world's biggest economy.

``U.S. shares showed firm gains, and we're seeing the influence in shares today,'' said Kim Jae Dong, who oversees the equivalent of $8.6 billion at Korea Investment Trust Management Co. in Seoul.

BHP Billiton Ltd. led an increase among miners after metals prices climbed and a U.K. regulator set a deadline for a formal takeover bid for Rio Tinto Group.

The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index rose 1.9 percent to 523.79 at 2:35 p.m. in Hong Kong, with all 10 industry groups climbing. The measure has added 32 percent this year and is on course for its fifth annual increase.

Benchmarks in all Asian markets open for trading rose. Markets in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand were shut today, and closed early in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. China, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan will be the main Asian markets open tomorrow, with the rest closed for Christmas.

Hon Hai climbed 4.4 percent to NT$200, the biggest single contributor to gains in Taiwan's benchmark index. Samsung Electronics, South Korea's biggest exporter, advanced 3.2 percent to 578,000 won, leading the increase in South Korea's Kospi.

Consumer Spending

U.S. consumer spending rose 1.1 percent in November, the Commerce Department said Dec. 21. That was higher than the median estimate of 0.7 percent in a Bloomberg News survey of economists and was the biggest increase since July 2005.

``Signs of a sustainable U.S. economy will mitigate investor worries about demand for Asian exporters,'' said Ernest Chiang, who helps manage $1.7 billion at IBT Securities Co. in Taipei.

Mediatek Inc., Taiwan's biggest maker of mobile-phone chips, climbed 5.9 percent to NT$428 after the Taipei-based Commercial Times newspaper said the company may ship 65 million handset chips in the first quarter, an 8 percent increase from the three months through December.

BHP, the world's No. 1 miner, advanced 2.2 percent to A$40.52 and Rio, the third-biggest, added 3 percent to A$132.44. Both climbed to the highest in a week.

Metals Prices, Bid

A measure of six metals traded on the London Metal Exchange, including copper and nickel, gained 2.8 percent on Dec. 21, the most since Sept. 19. Copper climbed 4.1 percent, nickel rose 2.3 percent, and zinc jumped 4.1 percent, the most since Nov. 28.

BHP must bid for Rio by 5 p.m. on Feb. 6 or walk away until six months from when it announces its decision, the U.K. Takeover Panel said on Dec. 21. Rio asked the panel on Dec. 10 to force BHP to formalize its bid, currently worth $123 billion.

``By setting a date, the U.K. regulator is encouraging something to be achieved, which provides a nice platform for shareholders,'' said Jamie Spiteri, head dealer at Shaw Stockbroking Ltd. in Sydney.

Zijin Mining Group Co. surged 16 percent to HK$11.90 in Hong Kong, its biggest jump since December 2003. The owner of China's largest gold mine predicted on Dec. 21 that its 2007 profit will increase to 2.5 billion yuan ($340 million). Zijin also said it submitted a plan to sell as many as 1.5 billion yuan-denominated A shares on the Shanghai stock exchange.

Centro, Singapore Property

Centro Retail Group, a trust owned and managed by Centro Properties Group, climbed 7 percent to A$1.07 in Sydney, the biggest gain in the MSCI World Index. Centro Properties said today it hired three advisers to help refinance debt and negotiate funding options.

CapitaLand Ltd. led gains among Singapore's property stocks after Global Property Guide said the city-state's residential real-estate market expanded the fastest globally this year, outpacing gains in China and Bulgaria.

CapitaLand, the city-state's biggest developer, rose 2.6 percent to S$6.31, its biggest advance since Nov. 29. City Developments Ltd., CapitaLand's closest local rival, added 2.6 percent to S$14.16.

The house price increases have been ``mainly due to strong economic growth,'' Global Property Guide said in its report.

China Unicom Ltd., the smaller of the nation's two mobile- phone operators, climbed 3.6 percent to HK$17.36, its highest close since Nov. 30. The National Development and Reform Commission said allowing China's fixed-line carriers to acquire Unicom's mobile networks is the most efficient plan for the industry, the Shanghai Securities News said, citing a research report by the agency.

Standard Chartered Plc, which gets most of its profit from Asia, added 1.8 percent to HK$291 after saying on Dec. 21 that Singapore-based Temasek Holdings Pte, its biggest shareholder, increased its stake by 1 percentage point to 18 percent.

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