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01.03.2012 08:32

Stocks: Wednesday’s review

Asian stocks rose, with the benchmark index set to enter a bull market, after U.S. consumer confidence beat expectations, and as factory output in Japan and South Korea gained, boosting optimism global demand will grow.

Nikkei 225 9,723.24 +0.72 +0.01%

Hang Seng 21,680.08 +111.35 +0.52%

S&P/ASX 200 4,298.55 +35.81 +0.84%

Shanghai Composite 2,428.49 -23.37 -0.95%

Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd., which makes shoes for Nike Inc., gained 1.4 percent in Hong Kong.

Hynix Semiconductor Inc., a South Korean chipmaker, gained 1.2 percent, rising for a second day in Seoul after Japan’s Elpida Memory Inc. filed for bankruptcy. Elpida tumbled 97 percent.

Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd., Australia’s largest electrical goods retailer, lost 4.2 percent in Sydney after its first-half earnings fell.

European stocks were little changed, erasing earlier gains, after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke failed to signal further monetary easing in a testimony to the Congress.

Bernanke said today that keeping monetary stimulus is warranted even as jobless claims fall and rising oil prices may push inflation up temporarily in the world’s largest economy.

Policy makers judge that “sustaining a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy is consistent with promoting both objectives” of the Fed for stable prices and maximum employment, Bernanke said in a testimony to the House Financial Services Committee in Washington.

The ECB said today it will lend 800 financial institutions 529.5 billion euros ($712.2 billion) for 1,092 days. Banks borrowed 489 billion euros in the first three-year operation in December.

National benchmark indexes declined in 10 of the 18 western-European markets today. Germany’s DAX fell 0.5 percent, France’s CAC was little changed and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 1 percent.

Hochtief tumbled 5 percent to 52.41 euros after it said it won’t pay a dividend for 2011 and that the pretax profit for last year will be “slightly below” the amount in 2010.

Holcim gained 1.2 percent to 59 Swiss francs. Full-year sales of 20.7 billion Swiss francs ($23.1 billion) beat expectations for a revenue of 20.4 billion francs. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 3.96 billion francs topped the forecast for 3.85 billion francs.

Erste Group Bank AG advanced 4.3 percent, the most since Feb. 2, to 18.84 euros as fourth-quarter net income surpassed analyst projections.

U.S. stocks fell, trimming the longest monthly rally in a year for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke gave no indication of further measures to stimulate the economy.

Stocks fell as Bernanke also said in congressional testimony that the job market remains “far from normal” and rising oil prices may cause inflation to grow temporarily. Earlier today, stocks gained as data showed the U.S. economy expanded more than forecast and business activity accelerated.

Dow 12,952.07 -53.05 -0.41%, Nasdaq 2,966.89 -19.87 -0.67%, S&P 500 1,365.68 -6.50 -0.47%

Commodity shares had the biggest decline in the S&P 500 among 10 groups as gold tumbled the most this year. Newmont Mining slid 4.2 percent to $59.43. Alcoa Inc. (AA) declined 1.9 percent to $10.17.

First Solar tumbled 11 percent, the biggest decline in the S&P 500, to $32.30. The company also reduced its 2012 revenue forecast to $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion, compared with a December forecast of $3.7 billion to $4 billion.

Staples Inc. declined 8.4 percent to $14.66. The world’s largest office products company gave a 2012 forecast that was “lower quality” than analysts expected, Jefferies Group Inc.’s Daniel Binder wrote in a report.

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