Asia stocks higher as China factory output grows

People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. Asian stock markets rose Thursday with the help of Japan's Nikkei 225, which was propelled higher by a weakening yen. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets swung higher Friday after a survey showed an improvement in China's manufacturing, offsetting gloom from a sharp drop in Japanese business confidence.

HSBC Corp. said its preliminary Purchasing Managers' Index for December rose to 50.9, a 14-month high and up from November's reading of 50.5. Numbers above 50 represent an expansion of manufacturing.

"I think it adds further encouragement that China is moving in the right direction," said Andrew Sullivan, a self-employed analyst based in Hong Kong. "But we are also seeing a lot of money sitting on the sidelines at the end of the year, and people want to get it invested. In previous years, we've seen good rallies around the end of the year."

The preliminary version of the HSBC index is based on responses from 75 to 80 percent of the 420 companies surveyed each month. The full report is due out at the end of the month.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng pulled out of negative territory to advance 0.6 percent to 22,579.2 by midday. Mainland Chinese shares posted sharp gains, with the Shanghai Composite Index surging 2.9 percent to 2,120.84. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index shot up 2.9 percent as well, to 806.67.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index erased morning losses that followed the release of a Bank of Japan survey which showed large Japanese manufacturers are more pessimistic about business conditions. The "tankan" index for the December quarter dropped from September's minus three to minus 12, much worse than expected.

The benchmark in Tokyo posted a 0.2 percent gain to 9,760.32, a day after closing at an eight-month high. A weakening yen helped export shares, with Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. surging 6.2 percent and Sharp Corp. jumping 3.2 percent.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent to 1,997.38. Benchmarks in India, Indonesia and Taiwan also fell. Australia's S&P/ASX added less than 0.1 percent to 4,585.90.

Wall Street stocks slid Thursday after investors registered their dismay at an apparent lack of progress during budget talks in Washington between President Barack Obama and key Republican lawmakers.

A deal must be reached by the end of the year to avoid what has been dubbed the "fiscal cliff" — hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts and tax increases that could plunge the world's largest economy back into recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.6 percent to 13,170.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.6 percent to 1,419.45. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.7 percent to 2,992.16.

The decline in stocks came despite the fourth straight weekly drop in applications for unemployment benefits. Applications fell 29,000 last week to 343,000, the second-lowest this year, the Labor Department reported.

Benchmark crude was up 60 cents to $86.49 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 88 cents to end at $85.89 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3088 from $1.3075 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 83.87 yen at midday, its lowest level in nearly 20 months, on expectations that Sunday's parliamentary election will usher in a government committed to a weak currency.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's move earlier this week to stimulate the slow-growing U.S. economy by spending $85 billion a month to help keep interest rates low also has helped weaken the dollar against other currencies.


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