Asian stock markets started 2015 on a positive note Friday as investors waited for cues from new economic data and central bank meetings in coming weeks.
KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 percent to 23,771.96 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.6 percent to 1,927.36. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5 percent to 5,435.90. India's Sensex jumped 1.1 percent to 27,815.68. Benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia also rose. Markets in several countries including Japan and China were closed for New Year holidays.
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THE QUOTE: "A fairly quiet start to the year may be misleading," Mizuho Bank said in a market commentary. "Like awkward first introductions at parties, the start may be a tad subdued, but that should not be mistaken for a boring and quiet year ahead," it said. Investors will face "crosswinds" as the U.S economy strengthens and the Federal Reserve raises interest rates while central banks in Europe and Japan are likely to give more support to stumbling economies, Mizuho said.
AIRASIA CRASH: Shares of Malaysia-based AirAsia are down about 8 percent this week after a jet with 162 people aboard crashed into the Java Sea during a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. Poor weather is hampering recovery of bodies and wreckage. The disaster occurred as the plane flew into a storm but the cause is not yet determined.
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks ended a strong 2014 with moderate declines Wednesday. Even with the losses, the Standard & Poor's 500 finished the year up 11.4 percent. It was the sixth straight year of gains for the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 160 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,823.07. It ended 2014 up 7.5 percent, lagging behind the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. The Nasdaq lost 41.39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,736.05 but rose 13.4 percent in 2014. The S&P 500 on Wednesday fell 21.45 points, or 1 percent, to 2,058.90.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 58 cents at $53.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 85 cents to $53.27 a barrel on Wednesday (trading was closed Thursday). Oil has plunged by half since June amid abundant supplies and weak global demand. Brent crude was up 24 cents at $57.57 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.
CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.3 percent at $1.2054. The dollar rose to 120.44 yen from 119.89 yen.