Asia Stocks Advance Amid Positive US Jobs Data

By Salon Staff

Published January 20, 2012 3:18AM (EST)

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Friday as strong earnings and positive jobs data out of the U.S. added to hopes that the economic recovery in the world's largest economy is for real.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.2 percent to 8,744.15. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.9 percent to 1,932.71. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2 percent to 19,989.15 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5 percent higher at 4,234.70.

Benchmarks in Singapore, New Zealand and mainland China were also higher. Taiwan markets were closed ahead of Chinese New Year, which starts Monday.

Strong corporate earnings reports in the U.S. boosted investor tolerance for risk assets like stocks. IBM Corp.'s fourth-quarter earnings also beat Wall Street expectations. Bank of America and Morgan Stanley both reported results that were better than analysts were expecting.

That helped lift shares in Japan's major banks, including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, which jumped 4.8 percent, and Mizuho Financial Group, up 4.6 percent. Nomura Holdings added 3.4 percent.

On top of earnings came data that showed the U.S. job market is strengthening. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 352,000, the fewest since April 2008.

Resources stocks advanced following strong gains in metals prices overnight.

Mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. rose 0.8 percent. Fortescue Metals Group, Australia's third-biggest iron ore producer, gained 1.2 percent.

Meanwhile, France and Spain held successful bond auctions, their first since Standard & Poor's downgraded their credit ratings last week. The result was a sign that politicians and central bankers have at least temporarily stemmed the spread of Europe's debt crisis.

Analysts warn, however, that a looming recession could hinder efforts to slash deficits while Greece depends on a deal with banks to avoid a disastrous default this spring. Closely watched debt-restructuring negotiations are taking place this week between Athens and private creditors. Failure to seal an agreement would likely result in a financially disastrous default by Greece.

"For the moment, the market expects a deal to be made while downside risk still exists and any disappointment could end the week of rallies," Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.4 percent to close at 12,623.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.5 percent to close at 1,314.50. Both averages are at their highest since July. The Nasdaq added 0.7 percent to close at 2,788.33.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 4 cents at $100.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Salon Staff

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