Asia stocks gain on hints of economic recovery

Asian stock markets rise as improvement in US hiring continues to underpin sentiment

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were moderately higher Tuesday, continuing to get a boost from an unexpected improvement in U.S. hiring that added to signs the global economy might be emerging from its downturn.

Sentiment was also underpinned by expectations that the European Central Bank will support struggling countries such as Spain and Italy by buying their sovereign bonds.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7 percent to 8,788.18 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 20,056.09.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 4,292.80. South Korea's Kospi rose marginally to 1,887.66. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand also rose. Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed.

Hopes that China's central bank was preparing to announce steps to spur growth in the world's No. 2 economy also helped boost confidence in stocks, analysts said. A weekend statement by the People's Bank of China was interpreted as a sign that more monetary easing was in store.

"Sentiment is turning more positive right now. Market turnover is increasing gradually. Money is coming back to the market, said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

For instance, last week's daily average turnover in Hong Kong was 46.3 billion Hong Kong dollars ($5.97 billion), while Monday's figure stood at HK$47 billion. July's daily average was $HK43.3 billion. "You can see volume is gradually increasing, which means sentiment is turning more positive," Yip said.

Markets fell the first four days of last week after investors were disappointed by the lack of specific action from central banks in Europe and the U.S. to support the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 197 points from Monday through Thursday.

The Dow soared 217 points on Friday, however, following a stronger-than-expected jobs report. The U.S. economy generated 163,000 jobs last month, the fastest pace since February and far more than economists were expecting. The upturn was seen as a sign that the U.S. may be resilient enough to pull out of a midyear slump and grow modestly.

Among individual stocks, Japanese steel companies JFE Holdings and Nippon Steel Corp. gained 4 percent and 3.9 percent respectively. Shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. added 2.3 percent.

Australia's resources sector posted solid gains. Mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. rose 1.2 percent. Energy Resources of Australia Ltd. added 1.1 percent. Mining equipment maker Bradken Ltd. soared 8.1 percent after announcing a 49 percent rise in profits due to its exposure to booming resource sectors.

The Dow rose 0.2 percent to close at 13,117.51 on Monday. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.2 percent to 1,394.23. The Nasdaq composite index rose 22.01, or 0.7 percent, to 2,989.91.

Benchmark crude for September delivery was down 30 cents to $91.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 80 cents to finish at $92.20 per barrel in New York.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.2394 from $1.2399 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.18 yen from 78.22 yen.

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