Japan, China stocks higher on stimulus hopes

Kelvin Chan, AP Business Writer

HONG KONG (AP) -- Stock markets in Japan and China, Asia's two biggest economies, rose Monday after Japanese conservatives who favor greater economic stimulus returned to power in a landslide election victory and China's new leaders promised more spending if needed to underpin a wobbly economic recovery.

Other stock markets around the globe were more restrained as investors weighed the stimulus hopes with continuing concerns such as the unresolved budget negotiations in Washington.

European stocks were mixed in early trading. The FTSE 100 index of leading British companies slipped 0.1 percent to 5,912.41 while France's CAC 40 retreated 0.2 percent. Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 7,620.60.

U.S. stocks were poised to advance. Dow futures were up 0.3 percent to 13,123.00 and broader S&P 500 futures rose 0.3 percent to 1,414.20.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 0.9 percent to close at 9,828.88, its highest level since April, after the country's Liberal Democratic Party swept back into power at weekend elections. Party chief Shinzo Abe, almost certain to become prime minister, favors increased spending on public works and setting a 3 percent economic growth target. He's also expected to lobby for stronger action by the central bank to break Japan out of its deflationary trap.

"The outcome of the Japan election should help support sentiment in the region," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a research note.

Japanese export stocks rose as the yen fell to its lowest since March on expectations of looser monetary policy. Automaker Nissan Motor Co. rose 1.8 percent, Sony Corp. climbed 1.4 percent and Panasonic Corp jumped 2.3 percent. A weaker yen makes their goods cheaper for overseas buyers.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.4 percent to 2,160.34 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite index climbed 0.4 percent to 819.58.

On Sunday, China's new Communist Party leaders under party General Secretary Xi Jinping pledged a "proactive fiscal policy" and "prudent monetary policy" in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency. They were references to the willingness to boost spending if needed and keep credit easy so long as inflation stays low.

"I don't think the statement from the Communist Party is startling news, but what we see is that they still continue the stimulating policy and so I think it's good in the long run," said Linus Yip, chief strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

The optimism failed to rub off on other Asian markets, which retreated slightly.

South Korea's Kospi lost 0.6 percent to 1,983.07 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.4 percent at 22,513.61. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.2 percent to 4,573.40. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and India also fell.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3165 from $1.3159 in late trading Friday. The dollar strengthened to 83.95 Japanese from 83.46 yen.

Crude prices rose. Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 16 cents to $86.89 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $86.73 on Friday.