U.S. Markets closed

Asia stocks rise as US jobs picture improves

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

People walk by an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. Asian stock markets rose sharply in early trading Monday, boosted by stronger-than-expected U.S. hiring figures for July following three months of weak job gains. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets rose sharply Monday, boosted by stronger-than-expected U.S. hiring for July following three months of weak job gains.

Investors scooped up shares on news that the pace of hiring in the world's biggest economy was improving and after a softening of Italy's and Spain's sovereign bond yields — a sign of less worry about those economies. That helped dispel fears that the 17-nation euro currency union could face a breakup as it wrestles with a massive debt crisis.

"I think people are no longer worried that the eurozone will collapse, so confidence has returned to the market," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.

A weekend statement by the People's Bank of China indicating it would intensify policy fine-tuning also helped investment sentiment by raising hopes for more monetary easing, analysts said.

"It seems that policy focus in China has indeed shifted quite dramatically towards supporting growth," Dariusz Kowalczyk at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 2 percent to 8,728.93 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 2 percent to 20,061.42. South Korea's Kospi added 2 percent to 1,885.95 and Australia's S&P ASX/200 was 1.1 percent higher at 4,267.50. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, mainland China, Thailand and the Philippines also rose.

Japanese export-reliant vehicle makers were among the session's big gainers. Isuzu Motors Ltd. surged 5.9 percent and Mazda Motor Corp. jumped 4.5 percent.

Beer and beverage maker Kirin Holdings Co. added 3.6 percent. But Sharp Corp. fell 4.7 percent, days after the struggling electronics maker announced it would slash 5,000 jobs over the next year amid tumbling sales.

Energy companies also posted solid gains. Japanese energy explorer Inpex Corp. rose 4.9 percent while Hong Kong-listed China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, added 3 percent.

Among Australian mining companies, Rio Tinto Ltd. Rose 4.2 percent. Fortescue Metals rose 3 percent after it announced it had secured $1.5 billion in new funding for the expansion of its flagship iron ore operations in Western Australia.

Stocks finished sharply higher on Wall Street on Friday after the government said the U.S. added 163,000 jobs last month, an improvement following three months of sluggish hiring. Between April and June, the economy added an average of just 75,000 jobs a month compared with 226,000 jobs per month in the first three months of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.7 percent to close at 13,096.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 1.9 percent to 1,390.99. The Nasdaq composite index rose 2 percent to 2,967.90.

Still, recent job gains weren't enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which rose to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June.

On Friday, Asian stock markets fell after the European Central Bank's policy meeting failed to deliver on bold promises of action to overcome the region's prolonged debt crisis. Investors had hoped the ECB would resume purchases of government bonds to lower the borrowing costs of financially struggling countries such as Spain and announce other measures to calm a crisis that is dragging down global economic growth.

But Germany, which is Europe's biggest economy, is opposed to the ECB operating outside its mandate to control inflation and wants any government bond purchases to be financed by other funds set up to deal with the crisis.

Benchmark crude was down 20 cents at $91.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract vaulted $4.27 on Friday to settle at $91.40 in New York.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2394 from $1.2377 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.40 yen from 78.59 yen.