HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian stocks climbed Friday, with financial stocks and exporters again leading the charge as eased worries about the euro-zone debt crisis and a higher finish on Wall Street provided a lift.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.06% gained 0.9% to 20,111.84, ending above the 20,000-point level for the first time since Nov. 9, while Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.40% added 1.5% to 8,766.36. Both benchmarks rose for a fourth straight trading day.
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China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +0.32% added 1% to 2,319.12, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.62% gained 1.8% to 1,949.89 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.81% edged up 0.6% to 4,239.60.
HSBC released the initial results from its January Purchasing Managers’ Index survey of manufacturers on Friday, showing activity contracting, though at a slightly slower pace than in December. The China PMI “flash” reading edged up to 48.8, compared to a final print of 48.7 in December. See report on HSBC China PMI survey.
“It means that the manufacturing sector is still in contraction, but the pace of contraction is stabilizing,” said Wei Yao, China economist at Societe Generale.
The positive tone for Asian stocks was helped in part by a higher finish on Wall Street Thursday, boosted by a jobless claims and better-than-expected bank earnings reports. Read more on the U.S. session.
Likewise, successful French and Spanish bond auctions spurred a European markets rally, along with expectations that a deal between the Greek government and private-sector creditors may be close at hand. Read more on the European session.
“Short-term, the global risk environment [has improved] with greater desire for risk trades, and a little bit reassurance after the European bond auctions,” Jefferies Japan strategist Naomi Fink said.
“It’s still a volatile time. Nobody is going to forget what’s going on in euro-land,” she said.
The well-received European bond auctions pushed the euro /zigman2/quotes/210561215/realtime/sampled EURJPY -0.0788% higher, lending support to Japanese exporters.
Panasonic Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 -3.56% rose 4%, Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -1.48% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF +2.69% gained 3.2% and Casio Computer Co. /zigman2/quotes/202492162/delayed JP:6952 -0.66% /zigman2/quotes/206719136/delayed CSIOY +1.17% up 4.3%.
Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +0.21% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.78% put on 4.1% and Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -3.23% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.62% improved 3.2%.
Above-forecast earnings and increased capital-spending plans from Intel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC +0.46% helped technology plays. In Tokyo, Kyocera Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204880749/delayed JP:6971 -0.10% /zigman2/quotes/205094593/delayed KYOCF +0.47% gained 2.7%, and TDK Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208948266/delayed JP:6762 +0.52% /zigman2/quotes/201622098/delayed TTDKY +0.77% added 3.3%.
Jeffferies’ Fink said “a sense of undervaluation and [earthquake] reconstruction demand” also underpinned gains in Japan.
“[Global risk] sentiment has been very volatile, and that’s one of things that has kept the market undervalued,” she said.
Several financial firms climbed, tracking solid gains for European lenders on Thursday. Hang Seng Index heavyweight HSBC Holdings PLC /zigman2/quotes/202687335/delayed HK:5 -1.57% added 3.7% in Hong Kong.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207520099/delayed JP:8306 -0.39% advanced 5.1% and Nomura Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206251373/delayed JP:8604 -1.90% /zigman2/quotes/207276383/composite NMR +0.63% surged 5.2% in Tokyo, Macquarie Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206727308/delayed AU:MQG +1.44% /zigman2/quotes/209628452/delayed MQBKY +1.33% rose 3.2% in Sydney and KB Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200043823/composite KB +0.88% added 4.6% in Seoul.
Some Australian materials stocks extended recent strength: Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG +0.44% rose 2.6% and Alumina Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210515632/delayed AU:AWC +0.18% put on 3.6%.