Asia stocks up as US jobless claims fall sharply

PAMELA SAMPSON, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK -- Asian stock markets rebounded Friday after the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits plummeted unexpectedly, suggesting the recovery in the world's largest economy might be gaining traction.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid fell to their lowest since February 2008, the U.S. government said Thursday. The positive figures follow a report last week that said the unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent _ below 8 percent for the first time since January 2009.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.9 percent to 21,182.77 and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 1,935.53.

Japanese stocks benefited from a slightly weaker yen. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 0.1 percent to 8,559.13.

Still, other economic developments Thursday prevented bigger gains.

The Commerce Department reported that foreign demand declined for American-made cars and farm goods. German economic researchers predicted the country's growth would slow, and unemployment in Greece, one of the countries surviving on bailouts, hit a record high of just more than 25 percent.

One big unknown is Spain and whether the government of the recession-mired country will ask for a financial bailout.

Last month, the European Central Bank agreed to buy unlimited amounts of debt by struggling European countries to help lower their borrowing costs. But the governments first need to apply for bailout.

Spain has not applied; instead, the government has introduced a series of austerity measures in a bid to bring down its deficit and convince investors it can manage its finances without outside help.

"For the day ahead, attention will likely shift to the US earnings reports, with JP Morgan and Wells Fargo in focus while uncertainty about the Spanish bailout will remain as a significant downside risk in the eurozone, leaving sentiment cautious," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1 percent to 13,326.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose marginally to 1,432.84. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.1 percent to 3,049.41.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was up 34 cents to $92.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.2939 from $1.2934 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 78.43 yen from 78.31 yen.


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