Asia stock markets mostly up after U.S. rally

Feb 04, 2013, 12:22 AM EST

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday as investors continued to feel confident about stocks following last week's U.S. jobs report and Wall Street's rally.

Solid corporate earnings reports and expectations that the weaker yen will enhance the bottom line of Japanese exporters also lured investors to stocks.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was 0.5 percent higher at 11,248.54. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 23,844 while South Korea's Kospi edged down 0.2 percent to 1,954.24 after briefly trading higher. Stocks in Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia were also up.

Shares in mainland China were mixed and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.2 percent to 4,911.10.

Last week, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 14,000 on Friday for the first time in more than five years as investors became less risk-averse following solid economic indicators from the U.S. and Europe.

U.S. government revised upward how many people were hired in the last two years — adding an upbeat note to earlier news that Europe saw a lower-than-expected unemployment rate in December.

These indicators help ease investor aversion for risky assets, assuring them that the U.S. economic recovery is not losing steam and that the slump in eurozone economic activity might be bottoming out.

"The mood is improving in Shanghai with the main index surpassing 2,400 as investors are less hesitant about betting on risks," said Yun hang-jin, a market analyst at Korea Investment Securities. "There are expectations that policies from China and other emerging markets will boost stock markets."

Investors in Asian markets are also keen on the lunar New Year holidays starting this weekend, which could boost retail sales and increase inflow of Chinese tourists to neighboring countries.

Among individual stocks, shares of Panasonic Corp. skyrocketed more than 17 percent. The company, which reported a 61.4 billion yen ($667 million) profit for the October-December period Friday, has gotten a boost from a favorable exchange rate.

South Korean exporters Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. saw their shares fall 0.6 percent and 1.5 percent respectively, as the stronger won threatens to erode their overseas revenues.

Benchmark oil for March delivery fell 27 cents to $97.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 28 cents to finish at $97.77 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.36223 from $1.3662 in late trading Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 92.65 yen from 92.75 yen.