Asian Stocks Rise Strongly On US Recovery Optimism

Published February 17, 2012 3:00AM (EST)

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks rose strongly on Friday after encouraging U.S. housing and employment reports sent Wall Street to its highest level this year and added to growing optimism of a recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

Oil extended gains above $102 a barrel and the dollar strengthened against the euro and yen.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent to 9,412.27. Seoul's Kospi rose 1.6 percent to 2,028.33 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 1.1 percent to 21,508.53.

Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.5 percent to 4,204.60 and China's Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.2 percent to 2,361.82. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also rose.

Investors in Asia took heart following solid gains on U.S. markets on Thursday that also temporarily pushed away fears over long-running bailout talks for debt-stricken Greece.

Stocks rose after reports showed unemployment benefit applications dropped for the fourth time in five weeks to a four-year low and a rise in building permits suggested growing confidence about homebuying.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,904.08, its highest in four years. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 finished at 1,358.04, its close in nine and a half months. The Nasdaq composite rose 44.02 points to 2,959.85, its highest level since 2000.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 79.06 Japanese yen from 78.88 yen in late trading Thursday while the euro fell to $1.3132 from 1.3143.

Benchmark crude was up 18 cents at $102.49 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 52 cents to settle at $102.32 on Thursday.

Brent crude was up 24 cents to $120.35 per barrel in London.

By Salon Staff

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