Asia stocks up on mildly positive US data

BANGKOK -- A pair of positive U.S. economic reports helped prod Asian stock markets higher Thursday.

A report showed U.S. service companies grew last month at the fastest pace in six months. A separate report said American companies engaged in a modest amount of hiring in September.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 0.3 percent to 8,773.02. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 20,917.56. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 percent to 4,444.10.

Some investors remained cautious due to events in Spain. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy denied this week that his government was about to ask for financial aid as it seeks to get a grip on its public finances.

Spain is under pressure to ask for financial assistance from the European Central Bank to keep a lid on its borrowing costs but the government has been reluctant to do so because it may come with conditions on its budget. Germany is also pushing Madrid to delay such a move because the government in Berlin is wary of presenting yet another rescue plan for a vote in parliament.

Spain's borrowing rates have come down since the ECB announced in September its new bond-buying plan. On Wednesday, the interest rate on the country's 10-year bond was flat around 5.75 percent.

Wall Street edged higher Wednesday after the Institute for Supply Management said its index of service companies, which includes everything from financial firms to clothing stores, rose in September to the highest level since March. The index reached 55.1. Economists had estimated it would drop to 53.4.

Additionally, payroll provider ADP said U.S. companies added 162,000 jobs in September, a modest level of hiring. The Labor Department will release its September employment report on Friday. Economists consider the government figures more reliable.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 percent to close at 13,494.61. The S&P 500 index rose 0.4 percent to 1,450.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.5 percent to 3,135.23.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 18 cents to $87.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $3.75, or 4.1 percent, to $88.14 per barrel in New York on Wednesday. That was the biggest decline since May 4 when oil fell $4.05 per barrel.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2914 from $1.2899 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.46 yen from 78.52 yen.