Asian Stocks Rise After US Unemployment Falls

Published February 6, 2012 5:27AM (EST)

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets climbed Monday after U.S. unemployment fell to its lowest in three years, suggesting a stronger recovery in the world's No. 1 economy that could benefit the region's exporters.

Benchmark oil remained above $97 per barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.1 percent to 8,931.81 after briefly grazing its highest level in more than three months. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.2 percent to 1,968.72 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was 0.5 percent higher at 20,862.18.

Australia's S&P ASX/200 added 1.1 percent to 4,295.70, while benchmarks in Singapore, mainland China and the Philippines also rose. Taiwan's and Indonesia's main indexes fell.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average was propelled to its highest close since May 2008 after the U.S. Labor Department said the economy added 243,000 new jobs in January, the strongest job growth in nine months.

That helped to push the unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent and the number of unemployed down to 12.8 million.

Noting that a similar gain occurred in April 2010, only to be followed by a negative trend, analysts at DBS in Singapore said, "Stay optimistic but keep a few grains of salt close at hand."

Falling unemployment in the U.S. is likely to be good news for Asia, as it suggests stronger consumer demand for the region's exports of clothing, cars, consumer electronics and other goods.

Among Japanese shares, Panasonic Corp. soared 7 percent and Mazda Motor Corp. jumped 4.6 percent. Camera maker Nikon Corp. shot up 11.3 percent after revising upward its net pretax profit for the current business year, Kyodo News reported.

Chinese shipping companies, which also stand to benefit from increasing exports, also rose. Hong Kong-listed China Shipping Container Lines rose 4.6 percent. China COSCO Holdings gained 4.5 percent, and its parent company, COSCO Pacific was 5.9 percent higher.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei hit 8,949.32 in the morning — its highest intraday level since Oct. 31 — before settling slightly lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was also off its daily high, as investors began to cash in some of their investments as talks to prevent Greece from defaulting on its massive debt pile dragged on.

"We hit 21,000 and now there is profit-taking, because there is still potential bad news from Greece," said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong kong. "The Greek debt talks are still going on, and no one knows if significant bad news will come out of there."

The Dow rose 1.2 percent to close at 12,862.23, its highest mark since May 19, 2008, about four months before Lehman Brothers investment bank collapsed.

The Standard & Poor's 500 added 1.3 percent to 1,344.90, its highest close since last July. The Nasdaq Composite added 1.6 percent, to 2,905.66, its highest since December 2000.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 44 cents to $97.40 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.48 to finish at $97.84 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3089 from $1.3153 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 76.76 yen from 76.55 yen.

By Salon Staff

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