AP News

Asian stocks up after positive US economic data


BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets mostly rose Wednesday, boosted by more evidence the U.S. economic recovery is gaining traction.

U.S. government figures released Tuesday showed a better-than-expected 3 percent rise in factory orders in February, the largest increase since September. In addition, March sales reports from auto makers were solid.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo jumped 1.7 percent to 12,207.46 as a fall in the yen enticed investors back into export shares. A weaker yen helps Japanese exporters by making their products cheaper in overseas markets.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose less than 0.1 percent to 22,377.74. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.7 percent to 1,972.91. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.9 percent to 4,942.10 after a narrowing trade deficit put upward pressure on the Australian dollar, analysts said.

Benchmarks in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia rose. China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 percent to 2,232.

The steady recovery in the U.S. has been supporting markets in recent weeks in the face of financial trouble in the 17-country eurozone, where the economy continues to wilt under the pressure of government budget cuts.

Unemployment in the single currency bloc hit a record high of 12 percent in January and February. Governments are trimming costs and companies are discouraged from hiring due to uncertainty.

Cyprus was the focus of such financial uncertainty this month as it chaotically negotiated a financial bailout. Deep cuts to its banking sector are expected to cause a huge slump in the economy.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 58 cents to $96.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 12 cents to finish at $97.19 per barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2800 from $1.2813 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 93.51 yen from 93.35 yen.

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