Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly up on double boost of China PMI, Fed minutes


Asian equity markets ended mostly higher on Thursday following upbeat Chinese factory activity data and the Federal Reserve's reassurance that interest rates would not rise anytime soon.

HSBC's May flash purchase manufacturing index (PMI) for China rose to a five-month high of 49.7, above the bank's final April reading of 48.1 and the government's April official figure of 50.4.

"The HSBC PMI flash release could be a first sign that China is getting on track for real GDP growth close to the government's 'about 7.5 percent' target in the second quarter," said Bill Adams, senior international economist for PNC Financial Services Group.

Meanwhile, U.S. stocks rallied on Wednesday after minutes from the Fed's last meeting said central bankers discussed ways to normalize interest rates, but added the discussion shouldn't signal any rate action is in the pipeline.

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Nikkei gains 2.1%

Japan's benchmark ended at a a one-week high as exporters cheered a weaker currency. The yen bounced off a three-and-a-half month high of 100.8 per dollar hit overnight to sit well above the 101 handle.

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Financials were among the top gainers following news that government-controlled Japan Post Insurance Life will increase its investment in local stocks. Nomura closed 3.8 percent higher, Credit Saison ending up 2.7 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group finishing nearly 2 percent higher.

Sony climbed 2 percent before its widely-awaited restructuring announcement. News out on Wednesday said that the company set aside up to $1 billion in current fiscal year to cut staff.

ASX up 1.2%

Australian equities also ended at a one-week high, rising for a third session, while the Australian dollar moved off Wednesday's two-and-a-half week low following China's upbeat manufacturing data.

Miners rebounded from the previous day's sharp losses despite iron ore prices dropping for a fourth straight day. Rio Tinto added 2.3 percent, Fortescue Metals rose 3.6 percent and BHP Billiton added 1.3 percent.

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James Hardie rallied nearly 6 percent after its net profit rose to $99.5 million in the year to March 31, more than doubling from the previous year.

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China shares mixed

Mainland shares entered negative territory right before the market close after trading at a one-week high throughout the session.

Property stocks rose despite a sector downgrade by Moody's late on Wednesday. Vanke rose 2 percent while China Merchants Property added 1.7 percent.

Gas stocks rose on news that China and Russia have signed a $400 billion gas deal. Changchun Gas rallied by the daily trading limit of 10 percent while Shenzhen Gas rose 5.5 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended 0.5 percent higher after hitting a one-month high of 23,053 points earlier. Train maker CNR fell in its market debut after pricing its offering at the lower end of the range.

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Kospi up 0.3%

South Korean shares pared gains after hitting a session peak of 2,022 points - their highest levels since December. A rally amid blue-chip stocks supported gains; Posco, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors all rose 1 percent.

Department stores Lotte Shopping and Hyundai Department Store rose 1 and 0.6 percent respectively, despite a 1.4 percent annual slide in combined sales at their stores.

Sensex gains 0.8%

Indian shares resumed their uptrend after snapping a four-session winning streak on Wednesday. Coal India rallied 7 percent on reports that Narendra Modi's new government is exploring breaking up the firm and opening up the sector to foreign investment.