Asian Stocks Swing From Gain, Loss on Health Care, Energy

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Asian stocks swung between gains and losses as health care shares rose while energy companies and materials producers declined. Japanese equities climbed as the yen weakened.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, fell 1 percent in Sydney as it headed for its lowest close since July 22. Alfresa Holdings Corp., which makes drugs and medical devices, gained 3.7 percent in Tokyo. Mazda Motor Corp., the automaker that gets 30 percent of sales in North America, added 2.7 percent as the yen slid for a third day on optimism the U.S. government will avoid default. Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd. dropped 4.1 percent in Hong Kong after Credit Suisse Group AG said the cosmetic retailer’s sales during China’s week-long holiday missed estimates.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.2 percent to 138.78 as of 1:18 p.m. in Tokyo after rising as much as 0.2 percent. U.S. House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders are open to a short-term increase in the debt limit, said congressional aides of both parties who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The market obviously is expecting the gridlock to be resolved,” said Donald Williams, Sydney-based chief investment officer at Platypus Asset Management Ltd., which oversees about A$1.6 billion ($1.5 billion). “But having said that, I think the market is uncertain until this is resolved, and so we’ve got choppy trading conditions ahead for the next week or so.”

Japan’s Topix index added 0.7 percent after yesterday rising the most since Sept. 19. The nation’s machinery orders rose more than expected in August, data showed today.

Regional Gauges

South Korea’s Kospi index was little changed after rising as much as 0.4 percent as the Bank of Korea cut its 2014 growth forecast to 3.8 percent from 4 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.2 percent even as data showed the nation’s unemployment rate expectedly dropped in September.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) dropped 0.8 percent, heading for the lowest close in a month. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.9 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 0.3 percent. Taiwan’s markets are closed for a holiday.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.4 percent. The measure rose 0.1 percent yesterday amid signs that lawmakers could raise the debt ceiling and on optimism Janet Yellen won’t rush to withdraw stimulus if she becomes Federal Reserve chief.

President Barack Obama nominated Yellen, the current Fed vice chairman and an architect of its stimulus program, to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as central bank chairman. Most Fed policy makers said they were likely to reduce the pace of bond purchases this year, according to minutes released yesterday of their last meeting, which took place before the U.S. government partial shutdown started.

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