Most Asian stocks higher as report finds strongest US manufacturing in 4 years

HONG KONG – Most Asian stock markets rose Friday after a strong expansion in U.S. manufacturing offset pessimism from a downbeat China factory report.

The private survey by Markit found U.S. factory activity this month grew at the fastest pace in nearly four years. The report helped investors shrug off earlier concerns about China after a separate report found manufacturing in the world’s second-biggest economy contracted for a second straight month in February.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumped 2 per cent to 14,741.42 as the yen weakened after a sharp gain the day before. A weak yen boosts export stocks.

South Korea’s Kospi gained 1 per cent to 1,950.69. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.6 per cent to 22,523.04 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.6 per cent to 5,445.60.

However, the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.9 per cent to 2,118.93.

A moderate gain in the Conference Board’s January index of leading indicators, suggesting continued economic expansion in the world’s No. 1 economy in the first half, also helped shore up gains in major U.S. benchmarks.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.6 per cent to 1,839.78 and the Dow Jones industrial average gained per cent, to 16,133.23. The Nasdaq composite climbed 29.59 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4,267.55.

In energy trading, benchmark crude for April delivery was down 3 cents to $102.72 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 9 cents to $102.75 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar edged lower to 102.47 yen from 102.48 yen in late trading on Thursday, when it weakened to as low as 101.68. The euro was little changed at $1.3719.