STOCKS: weekly review
Japanese stocks rose, sending benchmark indexes to their highest levels since Jan. 19, as steelmakers surged on a merger proposal and some company earnings improved.
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 1.1 percent to 10,543.52 at the close in Tokyo. The broader Topix gained 0.8 percent to 935.36, with more than three times as many shares advancing as declining. For the week, the Nikkei 225 climbed 1.8 percent, while the Topix increased 1.7 percent. Both gauges gained for a second week.
The Nikkei has risen 3.1 per cent so far this year and is Asia’s top-performing market as investors continue to favour developed over emerging markets that are battling high inflation and political risk.
The Topix has gained 4.1 percent this year. Stocks in the index were valued at 16 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.6 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 11.3 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
This week is the peak for quarterly results in Japan, with more than a third of the Topix index’s 1,668 companies scheduled to report earnings. Of the 803 companies that have posted net income since Jan. 1 for the latest quarter, 117 have exceeded analysts’ estimates, while 88 have missed them, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Better-than-expected results or annual guidance from the likes of Sony Corp (6758.T), Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) and Softbank Corp (9984.T), as well as encouraging U.S. chain-store sales data also bolstered sentiment with foreign investors detected piling into major high tech shares.
Hitachi, a maker of products from home appliances to nuclear reactors, advanced 3 percent to 487 yen after raising its full-year net-income forecast 15 percent, citing cost cuts.
Softbank Corp., the exclusive provider of Apple Inc.’s iPhone in Japan, rallied 3.6 percent to 2,976 yen, the single largest contributor to the Nikkei 225, after boosting its annual operating profit forecast 20 percent, citing demand for the touch-screen smartphone.
Nippon Steel Corp., Japan’s largest steelmaker, jumped 9.1 percent after announcing a plan to combine with Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., which soared 16 percent.
If the merger proposal triggers further consolidation, that will likely make “a good impact” on investors’ outlook for the Japanese economy, said Ayako Sera, a strategist in Tokyo at Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co., which manages about $331 billion. “Company earnings are improving this year, beating the market consensus.”
European equities enjoyed an upbeat note as growing optimism about an economic recovery and continued loose monetary policy boosted industrial and banking stocks.
Industrial stocks performed particularly strongly, with the construction and materials index up 1.8 per cent to 1,521.90 and the industrial engineering index up 1 per cent to 2,529.79.
Bank stocks across the eurozone were also up ahead of a key meeting Friday of European leaders expected to discuss plans for the eurozone bail-out fund.
UniCredit in Milan was up 2.4 per cent to €1.89, while Deutsche Bank led the Frankfurt market with a rise of 3.6 per cent to €46.73.
Elsewhere, the takeover premium on Actelion’s shares leapt as a hedge fund that is one of the Swiss biotech group’s largest shareholders called for a board shakeup. The fund, Elliott
Elsewhere in the sector, Swedish lockmaker Assa Abloy (ASSAb.ST) gained 2.6 percent ahead of its results on Monday.
Top faller across Europe was Nordea (NDA.ST), which ended down 5 percent after the Swedish government sold a 6.3 percent stake in the firm and said it plans to sell more.
Wall Street edged higher.
The S&P 500 closed up 0.3 per cent at 1,310.87, helping the index gain 1.9 per cent over the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 per cent to close at 12,092.15, the first time the index has ended a week above 12,000 since June 13, 2008. The index was up 1.7 per cent over the week. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.6 per cent in the session to 2,769.30, a rise of 2.6 per cent over the past five days.
But the key event concerning the markets was the January non-farm payroll figures, which showed that only 36,000 new jobs had been created last month. Economists had expected 136,000.
Traders were left unsure which way to turn for much of the day, however, after the data also showed that the unemployment rate had fallen to its lowest level since April 2009. Unemployment was expected to rise slightly, but instead fell to 9 per cent from 9.4 per cent. This was partly caused by a fall in the size of the labour force, however. Many commentators were quick to point out that the headline 36,000 figure was not as bad as it seemed as the adverse weather conditions during the sampling week would have skewed the data.
Also preventing the markets from losing ground over the employment numbers on Friday was the fact that the whole week had seen promising economic data. The ADP employment survey on Wednesday estimated that 187,000 non-farm private jobs were added in January. Figures from the Labor Department on Thursday showed job increases last month, and other reports showed strong manufacturing and service sector growth in the US economy.
The week on Wall Street began with a rebound following the sharp 1.8 per cent losses seen at the end of the previous week.
This was helped on Monday by near record quarterly profits from Exxon-Mobil and news on Tuesday that Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, reported a threefold rise in quarterly profits. ExxonMobil was up 3.2 per cent to $83.28 over the week while Pfizer added 5.9 per cent to $19.30.
Strong economic data also lifted sentiment. Solid data on consumer spending, manufacturing and employment gave investors cause to be hopeful about the pace of the US recovery.
After healthy gains on Monday and Tuesday, however, Wall Street stalled.
The S&P kept just above the 1,300 mark while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was just above 12,000.