Asia stocks boosted by US growth signs

Asian stock markets post gains after reports show US economy growing modestly; auto sales jump

Associated Press
Global stocks tentative ahead of US jobs report
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In this Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, photo, traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. Stock futures were mixed Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, with the U.S. moving closer to a military confrontation in Syria (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Good news about the U.S. economy, including strong auto sales, helped boost Asian stock markets Thursday.

A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed that all 12 of the Fed's districts reported moderate economic growth from July through late August. More good news came from the auto industry: General Motors and other carmakers posted strong sales in August, giving the industry its best month in six years.

That data comes on top of the Institute for Supply Management's report, released Tuesday, that said U.S. factory production rose in August at the fastest pace in two years.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index swung between losses and gains before rising 0.3 percent to 14,093.36 after the Bank of Japan said following a policy meeting that the world's No. 3 economy was "recovering moderately." The central bank's policy board also said the bank's monetary easing policies would be maintained for the time being, Kyodo News reported.

Andrew Sullivan, trader at Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong, said investors were anticipating a press conference later Thursday by Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda. Analysts were waiting to hear what Kuroda might have to say about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to raise sales taxes from 5 percent to 8 percent, a proposal to help repair the nation's overstretched finances. Kuroda has previously indicated support for the increase.

"People will now be waiting to see if we get a little more color on what Kuroda feels about the implications of the sales tax and how Abenomics is going ahead," Sullivan said, referring to Abe's strategy for extricating Japan from years of stagnation.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.1 percent to 22,574.03. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.9 percent to 1,951.10. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia also rose. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to 5,142.40. Benchmarks in the Philippines and New Zealand were also lower.

Investors were also looking ahead to Friday, when the U.S. jobs report for August will be released. Economists expect that the U.S. created 177,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 percent, according to financial data provider FactSet.

Friday's jobs report is the last major piece of economic data the Federal Reserve will have to work with before the central bank decides whether or not to pull back on its massive bond-buying program. That program has kept interest rates abnormally low. While most investors believe the Fed will begin to pull back, the question has become when and how much.

"The economy seems to be recovering. I think the crucial thing will be the jobs numbers on Friday," said Sullivan.

Wall Street stocks rose Wednesday on good economic news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.7 percent to close at 14,930.87. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.8 percent to 1,653.08. The Nasdaq composite gained 1 percent to 3,649.04.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 16 cents at $107.39 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.31 to close at $107.23 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3174 from $1.3199 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 99.94 yen from 99.76 yen.

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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

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