SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stock markets turned higher Friday as they juggled positive U.S. economic news and weakness in Europe, China and Japan. The yen rose against the dollar after Japan's finance minister said it had fallen too fast recently.
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KEEPING SCORE: After trading lower in the morning, Japan's Nikkei 225 was up 0.3 percent to 17,357.51 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 23,400.72. Seoul's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 1,964.84. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.2 percent to 5,304.30. Markets in Southeast Asia were mostly lower. China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.8 percent to 2,471.78. India and Taiwan also gained.
US DATA: The solid performance of the world's largest economy was a consolation for investors. Sales of previously occupied homes increased in October on an annual basis for the first time this year while the Labor Department said unemployment figures fell slightly last week. U.S. retailers reported brisk earnings.
WEAK WORLD: In contrast to the strengthening U.S. economy, a report on business activity in Europe stoked fears that the 18-country eurozone could follow Japan by sliding into recession. A survey by financial information company Markit showed Europe's purchasing managers' index fell to a 16-month low. Europe was not alone with economic troubles. Preliminary results of a Chinese factory survey released Thursday showed manufacturing activity in the world's second-biggest economy fell to a six-month low in November.
JAPAN: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of Japan's parliament on Friday, forcing a snap election in an apparent bid to shore up support for his government so that he can pursue his policy goals. The election is portrayed as a referendum on his economic revitalization policies, known as Abenomics, and the postponement of the tax hike that had been planned for next October. The yen strengthened against the dollar after comments from Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso that the yen's decline was too rapid. Unprecedented expansion of the money supply by the BOJ has been weakening the yen.
THE QUOTE: "While conditions in the U.S. look rosy, the same can't be said of the euro region, after a weak spate of PMI reports came out of Europe," said Desmond Chua, a market analyst at CMC Markets. He said investors could expect that the impending election in Japan to result in more support for its economy.
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WALL STREET: U.S. stocks rebounded Thursday with the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index setting record highs. The S&P 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 2,052.75. The Dow gained 0.2 percent to 17,719. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 0.6 percent to 4,701.87.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 50 cents to $76.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 25 cents to settle at $79.58 on Thursday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 25 cents to $79.58 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 117.78 yen from 118.07 yen late Thursday. The euro edged down to $1.2546 from $1.2547.