Asian stocks post modest gains as US data awaited

BANGKOK -- Asian stocks posted modest gains Wednesday as skittish investors waited for a key U.S. jobs report later in the week for signs of growth in the world's largest economy.

The U.S. Labor Department will release employment data for September on Friday. Economists are not expecting an improvement, but the U.S. economy is looking more resilient, thanks in part to rising car sales and home prices.

On Tuesday, U.S. automakers reported solid increases in sales for September. And the nation enjoyed another year-over-year surge in home prices in August _ a sign that the housing industry is making a sustained comeback.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 percent to 8,795.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6 percent to 20,956.69.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 4,439.60, a day after the country's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point in response to global economic uncertainties.

Markets in mainland China and South Korea were closed for public holidays.

"Holidays in China and hesitancy ahead of Friday's US jobs report will keep market activity restrained today," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a report.

Wall Street stalled Tuesday after Spain's prime minister said that he's not preparing a request for a bailout.

Traders have been anticipating for the past month that the Spanish government would ask for help. Spain needs to ask for money from Europe's bailout fund before the European Central Bank can start buying Spanish government bonds.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to close at 13,482.36. The S&P 500 index rose less than 0.1 percent to close at 1,445.75. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.2 percent to 3,120.04.

The monthly manufacturing survey from the Institute for Supply Management on Monday pointed to an improvement. Its main index rose sharply to above 50, a reading that signals growth. The index had been below 50 from June through August.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 28 cents to $91.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 59 cents to finish at $91.89 on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2905 from $1.2917 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell slightly to 78.12 yen from 78.13 yen.