Asian stock markets rise after upbeat indicators on US economy

BEIJING, China – Asian stock markets rose Wednesday on upbeat data that reinforced confidence in the U.S. economic recovery.

Oil edged up to stay above $104 a barrel as traders weighed the impact of conflicts in Ukraine and Libya.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2 per cent to 2,037.78 and Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.2 per cent to 14,662.31. Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei also gained.

Investors were encouraged by a government report that orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods rose unexpectedly in April, powered by a surge in demand for military aircraft.

Also, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose in May to the second-highest level since January 2008, just after the start of the Great Recession.

“The ongoing economic recovery is confirmed. Consumer confidence matched expectations,” said Mizuho Bank in a report.

Sentiment also was boosted after the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, suggested on Monday that it might offer further stimulus to fend off growth-sapping deflation.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.6 per cent to 23,089.81, Taiwan’s Taiex climbed 0.3 per cent to 9,081.87 and Seoul’s Kospi rose 0.3 per cent to 2,004.39. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.4 per cent to 5,533.30.

New Zealand, Singapore, Manila, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur also gained.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 11.38 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 1,911.91 on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 69.23 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 16,675.50.

In energy markets, benchmark crude for July delivery was up 8 cents to $104.19 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 6 cents on Tuesday to close at $104.11.

The euro was unchanged at $1.3637. The dollar dropped to 101.94 yen from 101.96 yen late Tuesday.