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Most Asian stocks rose as optimism about the outlook for the U.S. economy and resilient economic growth in Asia overshadowed concern that China’s real estate sector might be heading for a hard landing.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) advanced 0.5 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.9 percent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed less than 0.1 percent higher after rising as much as 1.1 percent and falling 0.3 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1 percent.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent after the Reserve Bank of Australia cited risks from Europe in its Dec. 6 decision to cut rates even as growth in Asia’s economies remains “solid,” minutes released today showed.
Exporters advanced after the Fed’s Lacker said the U.S. economy will expand 2 percent to 2.5 percent next year despite slowing global growth.
James Hardie climbed 2.4 percent to A$6.54. LG Electronics Inc. (066570), the world’s fifth-largest maker of mobile phones by sales, gained 1.7 percent to 72,700 won.
Olympus advanced 16 percent to 1,065 yen. The Japanese camera maker may hire financial advisers for a plan to sell 100 billion yen of preference shares to investors that may include companies from Sony Corp. to Siemens AG, the Nikkei newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.
Noble Group Ltd., the biggest shareholder of Yanzhou Coal Mining Co., climbed 5 percent to S$1.16 in Singapore, poised for its biggest advance this month. Yanzhou Coal, China’s No. 4 producer of the fuel, plans to acquire Australia’s Gloucester Coal for at least $2 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Noble, a Hong-based commodities supplier, owns 65 percent of Gloucester, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Hang Ten Group Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based clothier, surged 56 percent to HK$2.65 after receiving a HK$2.65 billion ($341 million) buyout offer from Li & Fung Retailing Ltd., whose parent also controls Li & Fung Ltd.
Cochlear Ltd., maker of the world’s top-selling ear implant, gained 16 percent, the most in seven years, to A$64.33 in Sydney after saying it plans to fix a glitch that had led to a recall costing as much as A$150 million ($149 million).
Among stocks that declined, shares of Chinese property developers dropped after SouFun, China’s biggest real estate website, said property transactions will continue to fall in the first half of 2012. Government data released on Dec. 18 showed the nation’s home prices worst performance this year with more than half of the 70 biggest cities monitored in November recording declines.
China Overseas Land sank 3.5 percent to HK$13.36. China Resources Land Ltd., a state-owned developer, fell 2.1 percent to HK$12.22. Guangzhou R&F Properties Co., the biggest homebuilder in the southern Chinese city, lost 1 percent to HK$6.16.
European stocks posted their biggest rally this month as banks climbed after a report showed German business confidence unexpectedly rose for a second month.
Stocks gained after German business confidence climbed in December, suggesting Europe’s largest economy is weathering the euro area’s debt crisis. The gauge of business confidence, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, rose to 107.2 from 106.6 in November, the Munich-based Ifo institute said today. The median economist forecast called for a drop to 106.
In the U.K., consumer confidence rose in November from a record low as Britons’ expectations for the economy improved in the run-up to Christmas, Nationwide Building Society said.
Spain sold 5.64 billion euros ($7.4 billion) of three-month and six-month bills, the Bank of Spain said, compared with the maximum target of 4.5 billion euros that the Treasury had set for the sale.
The average yield on the three-month debt dropped to 1.735 percent, compared with 5.110 percent when the securities were last issued on Nov. 22. The average six-month yield fell to 2.435 percent from 5.227 percent last month.
National benchmark indexes climbed in every western- European market except Iceland. France’s CAC 40 Index added 2.7 percent, Germany’s DAX Index jumped 3.1 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index gained 1 percent.
Lenders paced advancing shares today. UniCredit rallied 6.3 percent to 74 euro cents. BNP Paribas surged 6 percent to 30.14 euros and Intesa climbed 5.8 percent to 1.29 euros.
Arkema soared 9.1 percent to 51.98 euros. The company, which is cheaper than any rival industrial-chemical producer, may be a takeover target for Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) and DuPont Co. after deciding to spin off its unprofitable vinyls business.
Bayer rose 5 percent to 46.99 euros after the drugmaker said four of its medicines in development may contribute a combined 5 billion euros to annual revenue.
U.S. stocks climbed, giving the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index its biggest gain of the month, as better-than-estimated housing starts added to expectations the world’s largest economy will weather Europe’s debt crisis.
The S&P 500 rose 3 percent to 1,241.21 at 4 p.m. New York time, as 491 out of 500 stocks gained (SPX), according to preliminary closing data. The gauge fell 1.2 percent yesterday.
Stocks gained as builders broke ground in November on more houses than at any time in the past 19 months. The Federal Reserve sought to curb the risk of financial turmoil by strengthening its tools for preventing the collapse of large firms and demanding stricter oversight by companies’ boards of directors. Concern about Europe’s crisis eased today as German business confidence unexpectedly grew.
Today’s rally trimmed this year’s drop in the S&P 500 to 1.3 percent. The benchmark measure had tumbled 12 percent from a three-year high in April through yesterday as Europe struggled to tame its debt crisis. It’s trading for 13.1 times reported earnings, compared with the average since 1954 of 16.4 times, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Financial companies rebounded today. JPMorgan advanced 5.4 percent to $31.75. The shares lost 3.7 percent yesterday. Bank of America, which yesterday ended at the lowest level since March 2009, gained 3.8 percent to $5.12.
Jefferies rallied 23.5 percent to $13.90. The investment bank that’s been fighting speculation about its financial strength rose after fiscal fourth-quarter profit beat estimates on a recovery in fixed-income trading. Jefferies may not have to raise more equity after reducing assets on its balance sheet, Sean Egan of Egan-Jones Ratings Co. said today on CNBC.
Sprint Nextel jumped 10.5 percent to $2.21. AT&T failed to convince the Justice Department, which sued to block the transaction in August, that it could remedy the market impact of absorbing T-Mobile, the nation’s No. 4 mobile-phone operator. AT&T would have spent months in litigation to try to win court approval, and the company also faced possible opposition from the Federal Communications Commission.
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