Asian stocks rose broadly on Thursday, climbing to a two-week high, as encouraging Chinese manufacturing data, easing tensions in the Middle East and continued hopes that Greece will get its next batch of bailout funds helped lift investor appetite for risk.
A preliminary survey showed that China's manufacturing activity expanded for the first time in 13 months in November, signaling growth has started to stabilize in the world's second-largest economy after seven consecutive quarters of slowdown. The upbeat data along with a report showing another fall in U.S. jobless claims last week in spite of the upsurge in claims due to superstorm Sandy helped keep investor sentiment positive ahead of the Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States.
Japanese shares hit a 7-month high, helped by gains in automakers and other export-linked stocks as the yen remained in the descending track for the eighth consecutive day against majority of its major opponents on hopes of aggressive monetary easing when the new government takes power in December. The Nikkei average jumped 1.56 percent to 9,367, surpassing the 9,300 level for the first time since May 2, while the broader Nifty index rose 0.9 percent ahead of the long holiday weekend. The Japanese market will remain closed on Friday for a national holiday.
The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party unveiled its policy promise for the December election, proposing an inflation target of 2 percent in contrast to the Bank of Japan's current target of 1 percent. Shinzo Abe, who is likely to be the prime ministerial candidate for the LDP, said his party will seek monetary easing exceeding the scale of the anti-deflation measures and will proceed with a new growth strategy to stimulate the economy.
In stock-specific action, export-linked shares such as Canon, Honda Motor, Toyota Motor and Nissan rose 2-4 percent. Sony rose 1.8 percent and Panasonic ended up 0.7 percent despite a downgrade of their long-term credits ratings by Fitch Ratings. Brokerages like Daiwa Securities Group and Nomura Holdings soared 5-6 percent, buoyed by a general improvement in risk appetite. Among the prominent decliners, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp slid a percent, JX Holdings fell 2.3 percent and NEC Corp lost 2.7 percent.
China's Shanghai Composite index fell 0.7 percent despite encouraging manufacturing data. The China HSBC Flash Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to a 13-month high of 50.4 in November from 49.5 in October, driven by a rebound in output and new export orders, the results of a preliminary survey by Markit Economics revealed.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose over a percent to a two-week high, led by gains in mainland property developers after media reports quoted Finance Minister Xie Xuren as saying that the implementation of property taxes will be done gradually.
Australian shares rose sharply, buoyed by upbeat Chinese manufacturing data and the declaration of a ceasefire on the Gaza strip after eight days of conflict. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose a percent to its highest level since November 12. Miners ended mixed, with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton rising 0.2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group retreated 2.6 percent.
Gold miner St Barbara tumbled 5.8 percent after lowering its gold production forecast, while Newcrest edged up 0.1 percent. Lynas Corporation soared 7.1 percent after the rare earths producer said it expects to begin operations at its long-delayed Malaysian processing plant within days. Among the major banks, ANZ, Westpac and Commonwealth rose between 0.9 percent and 1.4 percent, but NAB shares edged down marginally.
Seoul shares rose notably on optimism the Greek crisis will be resolved despite the IMF and EU ministers delaying the decision on granting further aid to debt-stricken Greece until next week. The benchmark Kospi average rose 0.8 percent, lifted by heavyweight Samsung Electronics, which jumped 2.4 percent to a record high after a court order on a patent infringement dispute with Apple.
New Zealand shares rose notably on decent volumes, supported by firm regional cues. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 0.7 percent, led by heavyweight Fletcher Building following its AGM two days ago. Shares of the nation's largest construction company rose 1.4 percent. Exporter Fisher & Paykel Healthcare gained 2 percent after the company beat its guidance with an 18 percent rise in first-half profit.
Telecom edged up 0.6 percent, clothing retailer Hallenstein Glassons advanced 1.9 percent, Diligent Board Member Services rallied 3 percent to a record high and rural services firm PGG Wrightson jumped 3.1 percent, while SkyCity Entertainment and Pumpkin Patch fell 1-2 percent.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was moving up half a percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was up 0.4 percent, Singapore's Straits Times index was gaining 0.9 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average added 0.2 percent, while Malaysia's KLSE Composite index slipped 0.3 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks ended modestly higher overnight, as traders reacted to the news of an Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire, ending a bloody eight-day conflict around the Gaza Strip, and mixed economic news on jobless claims and consumer confidence. The Dow rose 0.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 edged up 0.2 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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