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Asian stocks rose, with the regional benchmark index heading for the highest close in almost six weeks, after French borrowing costs fell and the slowest Chinese growth since 2009 added to speculation policy makers will ease lending curbs in the world’s No. 2 economy.
Financial companies contributed the most to gains on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index amid optimism Europe’s debt crisis won’t throw the global financial system into disarray. HSBC rose 3.3 percent to HK$61.60.Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC), Australia’s No. 2 lender by market value, advanced 1.4 percent to A$20.66.
Chinese developers rose in Hong Kong. Agile Property added 9 percent to HK$8.39, while Country Garden Holdings Co. (2007) climbed 4.2 percent to HK$3.26.Paladin Energy surged after reporting a 24 percent gain in output and forecasting a price increase for nuclear fuel. The shares advanced 12 percent to A$1.71.
European stocks climbed, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index extending a five-month high, amid speculation that China’s slowest economic growth in more than two years will lead to easier monetary policy.
Gross domestic product in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, increased 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said in Beijing. The economy expanded at the slowest pace in 10 quarters, increasing pressure on Premier Wen Jiabao to ease monetary policy.
The European Financial Stability Facility, the euro area’s bailout fund, lost its top credit rating yesterday at Standard & Poor’s following downgrades of France and Austria on Jan. 13.
A report today showed that German investor confidence jumped the most on record in January. The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations, which aims to predict economic developments six months in advance, surged to minus 21.6 from minus 53.8 in December, the biggest gain since the index started in December 1991.
National benchmark indexes climbed in every western- European market except Luxembourg and Iceland. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.7 percent, Germany’s DAX Index advanced 1.8 percent and France’s CAC 40 Index jumped 1.4 percent.
Carmakers led gains among the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600. Daimler rose 3.8 percent to 40.85 euros and Renault SA jumped 2.6 percent to 31.68 euros.
Rio Tinto advanced 2.9 percent to 3,694 pence after saying that fourth-quarter iron ore production rose to 51.2 million metric tons in the three months ended Dec. 31 from 50.1 million tons a year earlier
Afren Plc surged 13 percent to 130.5 pence. The company said it discovered oil and gas at the Okoro East exploration well off southeast Nigeria.
U.S. stocks advanced, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to the highest level since July, after reports bolstered optimism in the American and German economies and Spain’s borrowing costs decreased at an auction.
Stocks gained as manufacturing in the New York region expanded in January at the fastest pace in nine months. German investor confidence rose the most on record in January. Spanish borrowing costs fell at an auction as investors ignored S&P downgrades last week. China’s economy expanded at the slowest pace in 10 quarters, sustaining pressure on Premier Wen Jiabao to ease monetary policy.
Equities pared gains as financial shares slumped, with Citigroup Inc. losing 8.2 percent amid an unexpected drop in earnings.
Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. bank by market value, gained 0.7 percent amid record profit. Sears Holdings Corp. surged 9.5 percent, the most in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, on speculation that the company may seek to go private.
Carnival Corp. tumbled 14 percent after the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Italy on Jan. 13.
Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) added 1 percent to $38.13. The food company said it will realign its U.S. sales organization and cut 1,600 jobs in North America throughout 2012 as part of its move to divide its snacks and grocery businesses.
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