Asian stocks rise on ECB stimulus hopes, Wall Street rise, investors look to US jobs report

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets were cheered Friday by a record close on Wall Street and talk of further stimulus efforts from the European Central Bank. Investors were also looking ahead to a report on U.S. employment.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 closed up 0.5 percent at 16,880.38 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.5 percent to 5,549.10. Seoul's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,939.87 but China's Shanghai Composite lost 0.3 percent to 2,418.17. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent to 23,567.25. Markets rose in Taiwan and Singapore while benchmarks in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines fell. U.S. shares, which closed at a record high Thursday, on the back of solid earnings reports, were set to rise, with Dow futures up 0.2 percent to 17,537. S&P 500 futures were also up 0.2 percent at 2,032.

EUROPE STIMULUS: The European Central Bank is under pressure to provide more support for Europe's recovery and prevent prices from falling. The ECB decided Thursday to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.05 percent, a record low. But after talk of doing more from ECB President Mario Draghi, markets turned higher. Germany's DAX had closed with a gain of 0.7 percent, while the CAC-40 in France gained 0.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 picked up 0.2 percent.

THE QUOTE: "There is a welcoming mood for the cheap yen," said Yosuke Shimizu, analyst at Argo Navis consultancy in Tokyo. The Nikkei had taken a rest Thursday from its surge after the Bank of Japan last week announced new stimulus, but was rebounding as the dollar gained ground on optimism about a continued U.S. recovery, he said.

JAPANESE EARNINGS: Earnings reports coming in lately from top Japanese companies have nearly all gained a healthy boost from the recent weakening of the yen, which has accelerated after the Bank of Japan announced additional monetary easing. A weak yen lifts the value of overseas revenue for giant exporters like Toyota Motor Corp.

JOBS REPORT: A strong report on U.S. hiring from payrolls processor ADP suggested Friday's official monthly employment figures will show robust employment growth. If that is the case, it will allay lingering worries that the Fed's recent decision to withdraw its extraordinary stimulus, provided through a massive program of bond buying, was premature. Intended to spur economic recovery after the global recession, the stimulus helped markets defy gravity even in the face of poor company earnings or bad economic news.

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CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 115.30 yen from 114.58 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.2389 from $1.2507.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil was down 27 cents to $77.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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