US jobs, consumer confidence data boost Asian stocks

Updated: 2011-12-24 07:44

By Jonathan Burgos (China Daily)

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SINGAPORE - Asian stocks rose on Friday, with a regional index heading for its first gain in three weeks.

The advance came as a drop in US jobless claims and an increase in consumer confidence added to signs that the world's biggest economy is weathering the European debt crisis.

Samsung Electronics Co, South Korea's biggest exporter of consumer electronics, advanced 1.5 percent in Seoul. James Hardie Industries SE, a supplier of building materials that counts the US as its largest market, climbed 3.6 percent in Sydney. Gloucester Coal Ltd surged 22 percent after Yanzhou Coal Mining Co offered to buy the Sydney-based company for about A$2.1 billion ($2.1 billion) in cash and shares.

"It's encouraging that the US economy is improving," said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage $1 billion at Pengana Capital Ltd in Melbourne. "Asset prices can probably go further, despite this fairly benign economic environment. There's probably a need for further policy response in Europe but at least we're seeing that the liquidity mechanism put in place is starting to impact positively in terms of bond yields paring their gains."

The MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index climbed 1.3 percent to 397.59 at 4:37 pm in Hong Kong, heading for an advance of 2.2 percent this week. Almost five shares gained for each one that fell in the gauge.

The regional index had fallen in the past two weeks, as signs of slowing growth in China and concern that Europe's debt crisis is worsening overshadowed improving US data. Greece's creditors are resisting pressure from the International Monetary Fund to accept bigger losses on holdings of the nation's government bonds, according to three people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

South Korea's Kospi Index rose 1.1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index also advanced 1.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 1.2 percent. Japanese markets were closed on Friday for a holiday.

New Zealand's NZX 50 Index added 0.3 percent, paring gains of as much as 0.7 percent after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Christchurch, the country's second-largest city.

Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (SPX) rose 0.4 percent. The gauge gained 0.8 percent in New York on Thursday amid better-than-expected economic reports.

Asian exporters gained as the number of US citizens applying for unemployment benefit unexpectedly dropped last week to the lowest since April 2008 and consumer confidence rose more than forecast in December to a six-month high.

Bloomberg News