U.S. Markets closed

Asia stocks up, Europe flat before data release

Kelvin Chan, AP Business Writer

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stocks followed Wall Street higher on Wednesday after upbeat economic data from the world's largest economy. But in Europe, markets were unsteady ahead of the release of more indicators that would provide further clues about the health of the world's leading economies.

Reports including a forward-looking German consumer confidence index and U.S. pending home sales were expected out later in the day.

In early European trading, Germany's DAX slipped less than 0.1 percent to 7,873.17 while France's CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent to 3,743.49. The FTSE 100 index of leading British companies was practically unchanged at 6,398.29.

U.S. stocks were poised to rise marginally. Dow futures rose less than 0.1 percent to 14,484.00 while broader S&P 500 futures were up 0.1 percent to 1,558.50.

Asian stocks ended the day higher following reports overnight from the U.S. showed home prices rose in January at the fastest rate since the country's housing boom peaked in 2006 while February factory orders for long-lasting goods were at their highest in five months.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.6 percent to close at 22,464.82 while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent to 1,993.44. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.2 percent to 2,301.26 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite rose 0.3 percent to 955.24.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.9 percent to 4,995.00 while benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also rose.

"So we had a good session in the US last night, certainly. I think the durable goods order figures were really supporting to the market," said Guy Stear, head of Asia research at Societe Generale. "We continue to see strong figures really, out of the production side in the US economy."

In Japan, gains were more muted, with the Nikkei 225 edged up 0.2 percent to end at 12,493.79 as investors stay on the sidelines, hoping for more than just talk from policymakers trying to stimulate the economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to pull Japan out of deflation through monetary easing and higher government spending.

"If the Abe government is going to keep the yen down, it is going to have to pull the trigger sooner rather than later, as investors are going to start calling its bluff," IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas said in a commentary.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened slightly to 94.57 yen from 94.50 yen in late trading Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.2832 from $1.2858.

Oil prices slipped. Benchmark crude for May delivery fell 39 cents to $95.95 a barrel. The contract rose $1.53 to settle at $96.34 on the Nymex on Tuesday.