BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks rose Thursday as traders watched U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump argued over economic policy and looked ahead to a meeting of euro zone central bankers.
KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent to 17,201.52 points and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.7 percent to 23,472.78. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 percent to 3,082.03. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.2 percent to 5,445.50 and Seoul's Kospi gained 0.1 percent to 2,042.14. Benchmarks in Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta also advanced, while Manila and New Zealand declined.
CLINTON VS TRUMP: Investors watched the candidates spar at their third debate over who had a better plan to spur U.S. economic growth. Trump, who has rattled markets by calling for curbs on trade and immigration, said he would hire experts, and not "political hacks," to negotiate more favorable trade deals. Clinton, seen as more favorable to trade, said she was focused on helping the middle class, while Trump's plans are geared toward the rich.
ANALYSTS' TAKE: "The presidential debate is a must watch for investors in the Asia Pacific region," said Michael McCarthy of CMC Markets in a report. "There are at least two points of acute market interest. One of the six topics is the U.S. economy, and any clarification of policy in this area could influence trading today. Secondly, a clear win for either candidate is important. Markets are likely to buy Clinton and sell Trump."
EURO ZONE WATCH: Markets looked ahead to a meeting of the euro zone central bank for insight into its intentions for its 1.7 trillion euro ($1.9 trillion) bond-buying stimulus program. Most analysts think that while the European Central Bank will keep its policies on hold at its meeting, governor Mario Draghi will leave open the possibility of an extension to the bank's bond-buying program, which is meant to increase lending, growth and inflation. Analysts think the ECB will wait at least until December's meeting to make any decision on the program's future.
U.S. JOBS: Investors awaited U.S. jobless data for signs of when the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates. Last week's 246,000 unemployment claims took the four-week moving average below 250,000. Rising employment would support the Fed in plans to hike interest rates that been kept near zero since the 2008 global crisis. "Wages started to rise in early 2015 and with luck will continue north in the months ahead," said DBS Bank in a report. "Not for nothing do many officials feel that policy rates should do the same."
WALL STREET: Stocks rose as oil and gas exploration companies gained on higher oil prices. Transocean jumped 5.7 percent and Halliburton added 4.3 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 40.68 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,202.62. The S&P 500 index rose 4.69 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,144.29. The Nasdaq composite index added 2.58 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,246.41.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 13 cents to $51.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract surged $1.20 on Wednesday to close at $51.82. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 11 cents to $52.56 in London. It gained 99 cents the previous session to $52.67.
CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 103.59 yen from Thursday's 103.38 yen. The euro was nearly flat at $1.0974.