ASIA MARKETS: Japan Stocks Change Tack, Gain As Other Asian Markets Hit Doldrums

By Ese Erheriene and Yoko Kubota Features Dow Jones Newswires

Nikkei rises despite yen's strength; China stocks down after contradictory PMI data

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Global equity markets struggled to find direction as a new month began, though Japan outperformed despite a lack of action with the yen, which often affects the country's stocks.

After four straight sessions of modest declines, the Nikkei Stock Average was recently up 0.8%, even as the dollar remained near Yen111.

Government data out Thursday morning showed continued growth in Japanese capital spending in the first quarter. "Domestic corporate activities are becoming more active," said Daiwa Securities senior strategist Hideyuki Ishiguro.

But he said the jump for the Nikkei, which rose more than 1% earlier Thursday, "surprising" given that the yen was only slightly softer in Asian trading. Export-reliant stocks were strong, with auto and electronics companies experiencing 2% gains.

Perhaps the calendar is to blame.

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The Nikkei hasn't finished its first trading session of a month higher since June of last year. Some trading programs may have taken that trend into consideration, Ishiguro said. And Shingo Ide, chief equity strategist at NLI Research Institute, said a new month often means a clean slate for institutional investors, which helps to trigger bold moves.

In China, stocks were down after an unofficial manufacturing PMI reading slipped into contractionary territory. The Shanghai Composite was recently off 0.5%.

South Korean equities eased slightly despite data showing that exports expanded for a seventh straight month in May. The Kospi , which has been at record highs lately, fell 0.2%.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Taiex rebounded 0.4% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 eased 0.2% amid continued selling in bank stocks.

Oil stocks were also lower in Australia following crude's near-3% slump overnight; futures have rebounded nearly 1% in Asian trading.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 31, 2017 23:29 ET (03:29 GMT)