Asian stocks rise on US data, Japan stimulus hopes


MUMBAI, India (AP) — Asian stock markets pushed higher Wednesday on signs of a pickup in the U.S. economy and expectations of further stimulus in Japan.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 led the gains, rising 1.8 percent to 15,050.79 after a weak outlook for companies raised hopes the Bank of Japan would launch additional monetary stimulus in coming months.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.4 percent at 22,535.43 and South Korea's Kospi edged 0.2 percent higher to 1,996.12.

In China, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.3 percent to 2,053.10 as investors continued to shrug off two reports that signaled weakness in manufacturing. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney was up 0.2 percent to 5,404.80. Indian stocks extended a rally ahead of elections set to start next week, with the Sensex rising 0.4 percent to 22,524.18.

Markets have been optimistic since Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen vowed to keep interest rates low and a survey showed an improvement in U.S. manufacturing activity, with the news apparently outweighing China's manufacturing reports.

"If sentiment is a key component in driving price around, I should think these markets can continue higher," Chris Weston, IG's chief strategist said in a market commentary.

Weston said European markets looked set to open strong as investors focused on another U.S. report on private payroll numbers.

In the U.S., the Standard & Poor's 500 gained 0.7 percent on Tuesday to close at 1,885.52, another record high for the index. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to 16,532.61 and the Nasdaq composite was up 1.6 percent to 4,268.04.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.38094 from $1.3806 late Wednesday. The dollar was up to 103.76 yen from 103.64.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was up 1 cent at $99.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract sank $1.84 to close at $99.74 on Tuesday.