Asia stocks rise on US economic optimism

By , on May 26, 2014

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HONG KONG — Asian stock markets mostly rose Monday on investor optimism about the U.S. economy, hints from China about further stimulus and weakness in the yen.

Markets in Asia were supported by Friday’s Commerce Department report that new home sales rose 6.4 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted 433,000 after falling in the previous two months. Demand for new homes has been one of the last missing pieces as the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, recovers from the global financial crisis.

Investors were also heartened after the Standard & Poor’s 500 finished 0.4 percent higher at 1,900.53, the first time it has ended above the 1,900 level.

Remarks by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that suggested Beijing is preparing further mini-stimulus measures to support the economy gave a lift to Chinese shares.

Li said appropriate policy tools and timely fine tuning are being prepared as the world’s second biggest economy continues to face “relatively big” downward pressure, the state-run China Daily newspaper said Saturday, citing a speech Li gave on Thursday.

“There seems to be a growing view among Western strategists that while Chinese authorities will keep monetary policy steady, they are starting to look at fairly targeted support for the economy,” said Chris Weston, chief strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne.

The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3 percent to 2,040.48.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 benchmark rose 0.7 percent to 14,567.04 as the dollar strengthened against the yen, rising briefly above 102 yen in early trading before slipping to 101.92. A weaker yen means the electronics, cars and other goods made by Japan’s exporting giants such as Nikon, Sony and Honda are cheaper for overseas buyers.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent to 23,957.35 and South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.3 percent to 2,010.73. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 5,506.50.

Trading was expected to be thinner than usual, with markets in the U.S. and Britain closed for holidays.

On Wall Street, the Dow climbed 0.4 percent to end Friday at 1,606.27. The Nasdaq rose 0.8 percent to 4,185.81.

The euro weakened to $1.3622 from $1.3630.

In energy markets, oil prices fell. Benchmark crude for July delivery was down 31 cents to $104.04 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 61 cents to settle at $104.35 on Friday.