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Asian stocks edge higher despite world woes

Asian stocks edge higher despite world woes

Most Asian stock markets showed resilience Thursday, although Japan's benchmark index slipped as the country struggled to contain the effects of a giant earthquake and tsunami nearly three weeks ago.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index was down less than 3 points to 9,705.91, a day after hitting its highest close since March 11, when the earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan's northeastern coast and took down a nuclear plant that has leaked toxic radiation ever since.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.2 percent to 23,493.22, and South Korea's Kospi index was 0.1 percent higher to 2,094.59. Benchmarks in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand also gained. Mainland China's Shanghai and Shenzhen composite indexes were down, as were shares in Taiwan.
For weeks, traders have focused on the human and economic toll exacted by Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, uprisings in the Arab world and their effects on oil prices, and European debt problems as Portugal moves closer to needing a bailout.
Now, however, traders seemed to be turning their attention toward fundamental economic trends.
Among the most important are the pace of jobs creation in the U.S. and when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates from super-low levels.
The most important piece of economic data this week will be Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for March. The figures often set the stock market tone for a week or two after their release. They could have an even bigger impact this time as investors gauge when the Fed will begin tightening monetary policy.
Recent comments from Fed officials have indicated that interest rates may rise sooner than the markets had previously been anticipating.
"What is interesting, however, is that whilst the market is expecting an end to excess liquidity, it is continuing to rally. It seems the fact the Fed see the economy as strong enough to stand on its own two feet without assistance is sending a positive message to the market," said Ben Potter of IG Markets in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, in Japan, authorities were grappling to figure out how to stabilize a nuclear power plant that was crippled when the tsunami slammed into it. On Wednesday, seawater near the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility tested at its highest radiation levels yet.
In New York on Wednesday, telecommunications companies led a broad stock rally following a report that private companies are continuing to add workers. The Dow gained 71.60 points to 12,350.61. The S&P index rose 0.7 percent to 1,328.26. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.7 percent to 2,776.79.
The ADP National Employment Report said 201,000 new private sector jobs were added in March, roughly in line with expectations. Investors were encouraged by a strong gain in small business hiring. The ADP report is seen as a precursor to the government's crucial March payrolls report due Friday.
Benchmark crude for May delivery rose 32 cents to $104.59 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $104.27 a barrel Wednesday, pressured by high U.S. stockpiles in spite of violent political protests throughout the oil-rich Middle East.
The U.S. dollar was lower to 82.80 yen from 82.89 yen late Wednesday in New York, its highest level in almost three weeks. The euro rose to $1.4130 from $1.4121.


Updated : 2021-10-17 15:20 GMT+08:00