Slow finish to the week

<p>Asian stocks finished the week higher, erasing earlier losses. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 1% in late afternoon trade thanks to generally positive overnight […]</p>

Asian stocks finished the week higher, erasing earlier losses. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 1% in late afternoon trade thanks to generally positive overnight leads from US markets. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average added 0.1%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rallied 1%, and South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.8%.

In Japan, retail sales fell 4.8% from a year earlier in April, the Trade Ministry said. The drop reinforces forecasts for gross domestic product to shrink for a third straight quarter in the three months to June. Despite the drop, Japanese consumer prices rose for the first time since 2008 last month after global energy and food costs climbed and retailers suffered product shortages in the aftermath of the nation’s earthquake and tsunami.

The Korean Won climbed 0.7% to 1,080.75 per dollar, a one- week high, after the Bank of Korea reported the April current-account surplus widened to $1.88 billion from a revised $1.33 billion in March. The Taiwan dollar firmed 0.5% to NT$28.801 versus its US counterpart.

In corporate news, Genting Bhd added 1.1% in Malaysia after the casino operator said first-quarter profit more than tripled. Gome Electrical Appliances Holding Ltd. jumped 6.1% after China’s second-largest electronics retailer said first-quarter net income increased 66%. STX Pan Ocean Co, South Korea’s largest bulk carrier, surged 9.6% after the Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity-shipping costs, rose.

Australia’s largest clothing manufacturer Pacific Brands – which recently relocated its manufacturing to China – said it needs to increase its online presence to protect its markets from competition. The admission has implications for other large retailers who are likely to deploy significant online strategies over the next few years to help lure shoppers back into traditional stores.

Commodities continue to consolidate yesterday’s gains. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 commodities beat stocks, bonds and the dollar for five straight months through April, the longest run in at least 14 years. G8 leaders singled out the surge in commodity prices as a significant threat to the global economic rebound and pledged to cut the debt built up in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

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