Asia stocks up on US earnings, Spain speculation

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer
October 17, 2012
Spanish hopes buoy markets ahead of EU summit

A man is reflected on the electronic board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday, led higher by exporters after a report on U.S. retail sales showed consumers in the world's biggest economy stepped up spending. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets rose Wednesday on better-than-expected earnings from U.S. corporate giants and growing speculation that Spain is finally ready to ask for financial aid.

Spain, mired in a deep recession and high unemployment, has become the latest flashpoint in the two-year European crisis due to fears that its debt problems could spiral out of control.

Investors are hoping that Spain will bite the bullet and ask for financial aid, which Madrid has been reluctant to do because of harsh terms that it might have to agree to in exchange for the help.

Instead, the government has introduced a series of austerity measures in a bid to bring down its deficit and convince investors it can manage its finances without outside help. The European Central Bank has offered to buy unlimited amounts of debt by struggling European countries, including Spain, to help lower their borrowing costs — but governments first must apply for a bailout.

"Risk assets registered further gains in the wake of speculation that Spain is close to requesting aid," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong in a market commentary. They said that positive economic data and third-quarter earnings from the U.S. also boosted investment sentiment.

On Wall Street, meanwhile, stocks rose on higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings for Goldman Sachs and several other blue chips. On top of that came a report that consumer prices barely rose last month. That not only gives consumers more money to spend — it also leaves the Federal Reserve the room to continue its economy-boosting efforts without the risk of sparking inflation.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.4 percent to 8,822.35. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1 percent to 21,411.26 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.7 percent to 1,955.94.

Asian investors were also placing bets that an upcoming leadership change in China will usher in a new wave of stimulus measures to help the economy, such as greater investment in infrastructure and housing.

Investors expect to hear more about the economy during the Communist Party congress that opens Nov. 8, when President Hu Jintao will step down as party boss and Vice President Xi Jinping will succeed him. The setting of the date, after a monthlong delay due to political uncertainty, has calmed stock markets whose fortunes are closely tied to China.

"Now that the date is set, investors interpret that as they are now formulating policies to stimulate the economy," said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

Wong said that stimulus is unlikely to be monetary easing, such as that undertaken by the U.S. Federal Reserve, because Chinese leaders are concerned about inflation.

Among individual stocks, Hong Kong-listed China Construction Bank rose 1.8 percent and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China added 1.6 percent.

Japanese export shares advanced as the yen weakened against the euro while holding more or less steady against the dollar. Sony Corp. rose 2.9 percent and Suzuki Motor Corp. added 2.7 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1 percent to close Tuesday at 13,551.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1 percent to close at 1,454.92. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.2 percent to close at 3,101.17.

Benchmark oil for November was up 28 cents to $92.37 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed 24 cents higher to $92.09.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3098 from $1.3043 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.70 yen from 78.90 yen.

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