Asian stocks climbed for a fifth day, the longest rising streak on the regional benchmark index since March, on expectations that central banks from Washington to Frankfurt may ease monetary policy to spur economic growth. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest bank, advanced 2.6 per cent, leading gains among financial firms. Canon Inc., a camera maker that gets about 31 per cent of sales from Europe, climbed 1.4 per cent in Tokyo. Tencent Holdings Ltd. led technology stocks higher in Hong Kong after Micron Technology Inc. agreed to buy Elpida Memory Inc. in the memory-chip industry’s largest consolidation in four years. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.7 per cent to 118.61 as of 1.40pm in Tokyo. Almost four stocks rose for each that fell. The Asian gauge last week posted its biggest weekly gain since January after Eurozone leaders agreed to relax conditions for recapitalising lenders. “The prospect for central banks easing policy gives us a good setup for equity markets globally,” Mikio Kumada, a global strategist in Singapore at LGT Capital Management, said. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.6 per cent and South Korea’s Kospi Index advanced 0.9 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 1.6 per cent as markets in the city reopened after a holiday yesterday. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.6 per cent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index maintained losses, dropping 0.2 per cent, after Reserve Bank policy makers kept the benchmark interest rate unchanged at 3.5 per cent. US manufacturing unexpectedly shrank in June for the first time since the economy emerged from a recession three years ago, indicating a mainstay of the expansion may be faltering, a report showed yesterday. Fed action The weakness in manufacturing may encourage more accommodative policies from the Federal Reserve, Princeton University economist Alan Blinder said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s ‘Market Makers’ with Erik Schatzker and Scarlet Fu. “Data like this that keep coming in are encouraging or strengthening the positions of the doves on the Fed,” Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman, said. “You know there’s a big civil war going on in the Federal Reserve, and weakening the position of the hawks.” Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 0.1 per cent today. The underlying stock gauge gained 0.3 per cent in New York yesterday as takeovers helped the market recover from earlier losses triggered by the manufacturing contraction. Micron agreed to acquire Elpida, an Apple Inc. supplier. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. agreed to pay $5.3 billion (Dh19.47 billion) for drugmaker Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. Europe rates Unemployment in the 17-nation euro area reached the highest level on record as a deepening economic slump and budget cuts prompted companies from Spain to Italy to reduce their workforces, a report showed yesterday. This added to speculation among investors that central banks will add to measures unveiled by the region’s governments to contain the sovereign debt crisis. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England announce interest rate decisions on Thursday. ECB officials will lower their benchmark rate by 25 basis points to a record low 0.75 per cent, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 57 economists. The China Securities Journal, a state-run newspaper, said the time is ripe for China to cut banks’ reserve requirements as slowing inflation gives more room for easing to stabilise growth. Financial companies accounted for the largest gains on the Asian regional benchmark gauge. Mitsubishi UFJ rose 2.6 per cent to 390 yen. Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan’s largest brokerage, climbed 1 per cent to 299 yen. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. advanced 2.9 per cent to HK$3.18 in Hong Kong. Exporters rise Companies exporting to the US and Europe advanced. Canon gained 1.4 per cent to 3,200 yen. Li & Fung Ltd., which gets more than 80 per cent of sales in the US and Europe, climbed 2.6 per cent to A$15.20 in Hong Kong.