Asian Markets Rise as Confidence Mends

Asian markets rose unevenly across the region Friday, as higher oil and metals prices boosted resource stocks, while the dollar fell as investors, growing slightly more confident, gingerly shifted some funds back into riskier assets.

Markets have been in retreat in the past two weeks as investors paused to work out if a rally in place since about March has run out of steam, as economies around the world struggle. Data continues to show a mixed picture.

In Japan, consumer price data showed a record dropon the year in May, with falling demand increasingly blamed as the country's second bout of deflation in less than two years deepens. And in New Zealand, the economy shrank for the fifth quarter in a row in the three months ended March, marking its longest contraction on record.

But markets are more confident than they were a few months ago and for shares, the U.S. Federal Reserve's statement on Wednesday reinforced expectations that interest rates will remain at a record low for a while.

The dollar index, a gauge of its performance against six other major currencies, fell 0.4 percent and the greenback softened against the yen , while the euro rose against the dollar. U.S. crude oil futures pushed on above $70 a barrel on renewed rebel attacks against oil facilities in Nigeria and worries that a glitch at the largest U.S. oil refinery may tighten gasoline stockpiles.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average rose 0.8 percent, with tyre maker Bridgestone climbing 8.5 percent after it raised its earnings outlook.

Seoul shares closed 0.1 percent higher, led by key blue chips including Samsung Electronics,
with a rally in LG Innotek lending further support. But Doosan Heavy fell after share sale news.

Australian shares rose 1.2 percent, boosted by banks, oil firms and positive news on first-half earnings from oil refiner Caltex Australia.

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Hong Kong stocks rose 1.8 percent, heading for a third straight winning session, as investors continued to pile into property and bank stocks on signs the U.S. and China will keep to their easy monetary policies for some time. China Shenhua, the world's largest coal miner rose 6.5 percent after Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the stock to buy from neutral as demand for the commodity showed signs of picking up, while supply from small mines remained tight.

Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 0.7 percent. But China's Shanghai Composite Index was 0.1 percent higher. Two steel mills denied firm plans to develop an iron ore deposit that officials in Northeast China claimed was the biggest in Asia. They had halted trading on Thursday. Bengang Steel Plates jumped in its heaviest trading since it first listed, despite forecasting it would post a loss, as weak steel product prices caused first-half returns to fall by 140-190 percent. Angang Steel shares fell after saying it expected first half losses of up to 3 billion yuan, blaming weak steel prices.