Asian stocks follow US higher on upbeat econ data

AP News
Posted: Mar 26, 2013 11:25 PM
Asian stocks follow US higher on upbeat econ data

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian markets were mostly higher Wednesday, following gains on Wall Street after upbeat economic data from the world's largest economy.

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 orders for long-lasting goods from factories were at their highest in five months.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.7 percent to 22,464.25 while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent to 1,993.05. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.5 percent to 2,309.42.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.6 percent to 4,979.40 while benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also rose.

"Risk assets were supported as investors focused on the positive aspects of US data," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a report.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was nearly unchanged at 12,476.65 as investors staying on the sidelines hope 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 to 94.77 Japanese yen from 94.50 yen in late trading Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.2854 from $1.2858.

In the U.S., The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8 percent to 14,559.65. The broader S&P 500 index rose 0.8 percent to 1,563.77 while the Nasdaq rose 0.5 percent to 3,252.48,

Oil prices slipped. Benchmark crude oil for May delivery fell 13 cents to $96.21 a barrel. The contract rose $1.53 to settle at $96.34 on the Nymex on Tuesday.