Asian stocks mixed amid stronger US corporate earnings, durable goods orders

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BEIJING, China – Asian stocks were mixed Friday after solid earnings for Apple and Caterpillar and better U.S. durable goods orders.

Oil gained to stay above $101 after Ukraine launched an operation to drive pro-Russian insurgents out of occupied buildings in the country’s east, and Moscow responded by announcing military exercises.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.6 per cent to 14,495.57, rebounding from a 1 per cent plunge a day earlier after talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama failed to produce a trade agreement.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 per cent to 2,061.05 while Hong Kong, Taiwan, Seoul and Jakarta fell.

Markets in Australia and New Zealand were closed for a holiday.

Solid earnings from Apple, Caterpillar and some other U.S. companies helped to reassure markets. But relief was mixed with concern about higher U.S. unemployment claims, which dampened enthusiasm about gains in durable goods orders.

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits jumped 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 329,000 last week while durable goods orders rose 2.6 per cent in March. That helped to recover some ground lost to declines in December and January.

“Durable goods are grinding their way back to pre-December norms but that’s about it,” DBS Group said in a report.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.7 per cent to 22,405.80, while Taiwan’s Taiex was off 1 per cent at 8,853.69. Seoul’s Kospi fell 0.6 per cent to 1,986.71.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.4 per cent on Thursday. Germany’s DAX rose 0.1 per cent and the CAC-40 in France ended 0.6 per cent higher.

On Wall Street, Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.2 per cent and the Nasdaq composite added 0.5 per cent. The Dow Jones industrial average closed unchanged.

Apple and Facebook earnings helped to reassure investors who have been concerned over the past month that technology stocks might be overvalued.

Crude for May delivery added 5 cents to $101.99 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange amid worry Russia-Ukraine tensions might hurt Russian exports. The contract added 50 cents on Thursday to close at $101.94.

In currency markets, the dollar was up 0.1 per cent at 102.42 yen and the euro was steady at $1.384.

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