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Asian markets up on Europe, US policy optimism

Friday - 7/5/2013, 2:08am  ET

KAY JOHNSON
AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) -- Optimism that easy European and U.S. monetary policy will continue boosted Asian stock markets Friday as investors awaited a key American jobs report later in the day.

The prospect of continued monetary stimulus helped offset worries earlier in the week of a Chinese slowdown, European debt woes re-emerging and disruption of energy markets due to the military ouster of Egypt's president.

Hong Kong and Taiwanese stocks posted the biggest gains in morning trade and most other major indexes were in positive territory after the European Central Bank kept its policy interest rate at a record low to combat a persistent recession and its President Mario Draghi said the rate will remain there "for an extended period of time."

The European statement plus indications that the U.S. economy is growing -- but probably not fast enough for the U.S. Federal Reserve to rush into tapering off its purchases of $85 billion in bonds each month to keep interest rates low -- boosted markets that had been spooked in recent weeks at the prospect of such stimulus ending.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was up 1.3 percent to 14,194.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.4 percent to 20,753.62 and Taipei's TAIEX was up 1.4 percent to 8,003.77. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.7 percent to 4,829.10. Seoul's KOSPI was in negative territory, edging down 0.1 percent to 1,837.32.

The Asian gains followed a strong rally in Europe that was sparked by the ECB's statement and the Bank of England's announcement that speculation it would raise rates was unwarranted.

Britain's FTSE 100 index jumped 3.1 percent to close at 6,421.67 while Germany's DAX rose 2.1 percent to 7,994.31. France's CAC 40 gained 2.9 percent to 3,809.31. Wall Street was closed Thursday for the Independence Day holiday.

Investors were also waiting for a U.S. government jobs report due Friday. Earlier in the week, Wall Street rallied after ADP, a payrolls processor, said that businesses added more jobs last month than analysts had expected. If the U.S. government confirms that Friday, it offers hope that the American recovery is continuing.

The strength of the jobs report may also offer clues to what the Federal Reserve will do next.

Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor, noted that while physical exchanges were closed in the U.S. on Thursday, futures were still trading, and they indicate Wednesday's rally could continue, with Dow Jones Industrial Index futures now trading above 15,000. The index closed at 14,988.50 Wednesday.

"Whether this can be sustained will clearly be reflected by what's happening on a global basis," he said in a market commentary. "The situation in Egypt remains hugely sensitive, whilst resurgent eurozone woes could knock sentiment."

The price of oil this week passed $100 per barrel due to events in the Middle East: Egypt's military overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, after he defied calls to resign despite the demands of millions of protesters.

Egypt is not an oil producer but its control of the Suez canal -- one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, which links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea -- gives it a crucial role in maintaining global energy supplies.

High energy costs act as a drag on economic growth, but oil has eased somewhat from its Wednesday highs and on Friday was down 18 cents to $101.06 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the euro was down slightly at $1.2899. The dollar rose to 100.28 yen from 100.23 yen late Thursday.

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Toby Sterling in Amsterdam contributed to this report.


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