U.S. Markets closed

Asia stocks up slightly on strong US earnings

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets posted slight gains Monday after strong U.S. earnings pushed Wall Street indexes to multi-year highs, though Japan's Nikkei dipped amid profit-taking.

The U.S. is due to report durable goods and pending home sales for December later in the day, but the numbers would have to sharply disappoint to dampen enthusiasm for stocks, analysts said.

"The heavy slate of US data releases this week will keep markets busy but overall we see little to dent the positive tone to risk assets over coming sessions," Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong wrote in a market commentary.

The Nikkei in Tokyo opened higher but then slipped 0.8 percent to 10,840.11 as investors cashed in shares following strong gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 23,691.42. Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines also rose.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent to 1,940.44, dragged down by Samsung Electronics, the world's No. 1 smartphone maker, which plunged 3 percent after Friday saying the strong won would hurt earnings this year. Steelmaker POSCO lost 3.4 percent.

Australian markets were closed for a public holiday.

On Friday, the Standard and Poor's 500 index closed above 1,500 for the first time in more than five years after good earnings reports from Starbucks and Procter & Gamble, the world's largest consumer products maker.

"Wall Street performed pretty well, that has helped overall sentiment this morning," said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong. Banking stocks did well on the back of a European Central Bank statement Friday that banks in the region were expected to pay back emergency loans faster than previously expected, increasing confidence that Europe's debt crisis is easing.

Hong Kong-listed Bank of China Ltd. rose 1.1 percent. South Korea's Shinhan Financial Group gained 4 percent. Japan's Nomura Holdings added 1 percent.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.5 percent to 1,502.96. The index had not closed above 1,500 since December 2007, the start of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to close at 13,895.98. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.6 percent to 3,149.71.The Dow is now just 268 points below its record high of 14,165, reached on Oct. 9, 2007, two months before the Great Recession began.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 16 cents to $96.04 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 7 cents to close at $95.88 in trading on the Nymex. It ended the week with a gain of 32 cents.

In currencies, the euro slipped to $1.3463 from $1.3467 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 91.02 from 90.98 yen. The euro rose to an 11-month high against the dollar Friday after the ECB announcement.


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