Asian stocks gain on stronger US retail sales

HONG KONG -- Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday, led higher by exporters after a report on U.S. retail sales showed consumers in the world's biggest economy stepped up spending.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.3 percent to 8,689.29 and South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.9 percent to 1,941.45. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 21,206.42. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 4,496.50. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, and New Zealand also rose.

Investors were encouraged by a U.S. Commerce Department report that showed retail sales rose 1.1 percent in September. August's number was also revised slightly higher to 1.2 percent. The two figures were the biggest since October 2010.

The numbers added to optimism about an economic recovery in the United States and helped push up shares of Asia's powerhouse manufacturers, many of which rely on sales to the U.S.

Toshiba Corp. jumped 2.7 percent and Sony Corp. rose 1.5 percent in Tokyo, where exporters were also aided by a slightly weaker yen. In Seoul, Samsung Electronics Co. rose 1.7 percent while automaker Hyundai Motor Co. rose 0.7 percent and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. jumped 1.8 percent.

The U.S. data, combined with China trade data released on Saturday that showed exports from the world's second-biggest economy rose a relatively robust 9.9 percent, are signs that "economic activities are picking up," said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities.

"Export-oriented companies would benefit" from stronger U.S. retail sales, he said.

Japan's Softbank Corp. rose more than 10 percent a day after the company, which has investments in Internet and telecom businesses, announced it's buying a controlling stake in Sprint Nextel Corp., the No. 3 U.S. cellphone company, for $20.1 billion.

Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 percent to 2,110.21 after briefly slipping into the red. Strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a research note that "market movements" will be capped as investors hesitate ahead of a slate of Chinese economic data expected out later this week, including GDP growth, retail sales and fixed asset investment.

Wong said investors are waiting to see if authorities in Beijing will roll out new economic policies to shore up growth.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 0.7 percent to close at 13,424.23, its biggest gain since September 13. The Standard & Poor's 500 index ended 0.8 percent higher at 1,440.13 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 0.7 percent to 3,064.18.

In currencies, the euro strengthened to $1.2966 from $1.2941 in late trading Monday. The dollar rose to 78.88 Japanese yen from 78.70 yen.

Oil prices fell. Benchmark crude for November delivery was down 4 cents to $91.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract finished down 1 cent at $91.85 on Monday.