• Asian stocks see broad increases


    HONG KONG: Asian stock markets saw broad gains on Friday, making a strong finish to the week as they took their lead from Wall Street, which shrugged off lackluster US economic data.

    Global markets have rallied this week, after a tumultuous period caused by the US Federal Reserve’s decision to reduce its stimulus program for a second time in two months.

    Sydney closed up 0.91 percent, Seoul’s benchmark index gained 0.69 percent, and Hong Kong was 0.40 percent higher at mid-session while Shanghai was trading up 0.62 percent.

    Tokyo stocks bucked the trend, closing down 1.53 percent after giving up early gains, as the yen strengthened on the back of the disappointing US retail sales and jobless figures which raised more questions about the health of the world’s biggest economy.

    But Shanghai shares were higher in afternoon trade after data showed China’s inflation was unchanged in January from a month earlier, despite analysts warning the figure suggested weak growth prospects for the world’s second-largest economy.

    The benchmark Shanghai composite index rose 13.05 points to 2,111.45. The Shenzhen composite index, which tracks stocks on China’s second exchange, gained 1.06 percent, or 11.89 points to 1,131.82.

    China’s inflation rate was steady at 2.5 percent year-on-year in January, the government said on Friday.

    “The figure suggested that inflationary pressure is small, so the market is quite optimistic,” Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing told Agence France-Presse.

    US stocks defied disappointing retail sales and jobless claims data on Thursday to make modest gains, with the Dow Jones industrial average finishing up 63.65 points, or 0.40 percent at 16,027.59.

    The broad-based S&P 500 tacked on 10.57 points (0.58 percent) to 1,829.83, while the tech-rich Nasdaq composite index jumped 39.38 points (0.94 percent) to 4,240.67.

    US retail sales unexpectedly fell 0.4 percent in January in the second straight monthly decline, according to the Commerce Department.

    The Labor Department reported weekly first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose to 339,000 from 331,000 the previous week, slightly more than expected but in line with the longer-term trend.

    Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities, said that investors saw the data as “primarily weather-related” after a streak of severe winter weather depressed economic activity.

    In currencies, in Tokyo afternoon trade the greenback fetched 101.76 yen, weakening from 102.15 yen in New York City on Thursday afternoon.

    The euro bought $1.3677 and 139.21 yen, from $1.3678 and 139.74 yen.



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