Topix Drives Asian Stocks Higher After Yellen; Gold Falls

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download (5)Japanese shares climbed, propelling a gauge of Asian stocks higher for a sixth day, and the Australian dollar weakened against most major peers. Gold retreated, halting a five-day gain, and South Korea’s won strengthened.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.6 percent as of 9:15 a.m. in Tokyo, where the Topix Index rose 1.2 percent after being closed yesterday for a holiday. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures were little changed after the gauge capped its biggest four-day gain in more than a year. The won gained 0.5 percent versus the greenback andAustralia’s dollar weakened 0.2 percent. Spot gold fell 0.5 percent.

Federal Reserve chairmanJanet Yellen pledged to maintain her predecessor’s policies by scaling back stimulus in “measured steps,” saying in remarks to the House Financial Services Committee that economic growth has picked up and the labor market has seen “broad improvement.” Japan reported that machinery orders fell 15.7 percent in December from a month before, almost four times the estimated decrease. Data on China’s trade balance and Malaysia’s economic growth are due today.

“Yellen’s comments gave the market some confidence that there’s underlying strength in the U.S. economy,” Toby Lawson, head of futures, options and cash equities trading for Asia-Pacific at Newedge Group SA in Sydney, said by telephone. “The recent sell off was an overreaction to a confluence of factors such as softening economic data in China. There will be continued bumps in the Chinese economy as it transitions from an export-led economy to a domestic-oriented one.”

Federal Open Market Committee officials have twice reduced the size of the monthly asset-purchase program, lowering bond buying to $65 billion in February from $85 billion last year.