Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Asian Stocks Rise for Third Day, Led by BHP Billiton and Marui

By Chen Shiyin and Patrick Rial

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks rose for a third day, led by commodity producers and department-store operators, after raw-material prices advanced and U.S. retailers reported an increase in earnings.

BHP Billiton Ltd. gained after the price of crude oil advanced to a record and copper futures rose. Noble Group Ltd., a Hong Kong-based supplier of raw materials, had the biggest jump on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index after saying profit almost doubled. Marui Group Co. climbed the most in almost eight years after the Japanese retailer boosted its profit forecast.

``The commodities-related shares are being thrust to the forefront today'' after oil's climb, Hiroichi Nishi, an equities manager at Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

MSCI's Asia Index added 1.6 percent to 148.53 as of 11:18 a.m. in Tokyo, extending a two-day, 1.8 percent rally. All 10 of the benchmark's industry groups advanced.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 1.4 percent to 14,016.44, poised for the highest close since Jan. 11. Benchmarks also advanced in all other markets open for trading.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 0.7 percent yesterday, rounding off its biggest three-day advance of the year. U.S. stocks were boosted after International Business Machines Corp., the world's biggest computer-services company, said a $15 billion share buy-back may boost earnings by 5 cents a share this year.

BHP, Inpex

BHP, the world's largest mining company and Australia's biggest oil producer, gained 1.9 percent to A$39.49. Santos Ltd., Australia's No. 3 oil and gas explorer, jumped 7.5 percent to A$12.70. Inpex Holdings Inc., Japan's largest energy explorer, advanced 2.5 percent to 1.21 million yen.

Crude oil for April delivery rose to as high as $101.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, and was recently at $101.21. Copper futures advanced 0.9 percent in New York on speculation demand from emerging markets such as China and India will erode inventories.

Other commodity prices also gained. Gold climbed to a record in Asia today, while wheat prices rose to a high in Chicago yesterday.

Noble Group, which supplies raw materials from coffee to energy, surged 13 percent to S$2.34 in Singapore, the biggest percentage gain on MSCI's Asian index. Fourth-quarter profit jumped 92 percent as demand and prices increased and it stepped up investments in agriculture and energy.

Marui, Retailers

Marui jumped 9.3 percent to 1,086 yen in Tokyo. Net income may be as much as 8.5 billion yen ($79 million) this year, helped by a gain from the sale of its fixed assets, the company said.

Shares of retailers climbed in the U.S. after Target Corp., the No. 2 U.S. discount chain, reported a smaller-than-expected drop in profit and RadioShack Corp. reported an increase in net income. Macy's Inc., owner of its namesake chain and Bloomingdales, also reported higher-than-expected profit.

Fast Retailing Co., Japan's biggest clothing retailer, advanced 2.4 percent to 7,970 yen. Hyundai Department Store Co., South Korea's No. 2 department-store operator, added 4.5 percent to 85,300 won, snapping a three-day, 6.5 percent retreat.

Technology shares advanced. Sony Corp., the world's second- largest maker of consumer electronics, added 2.3 percent to 5,320 yen. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, gained 1.1 percent to NT$190.50.

IBM climbed to a four-month high in New York trading after saying it will earn at least $8.25 a share, following the buyback. The company had previously forecast earnings of at least $8.20.

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