Asian stocks rise on last trading day of 2011 - KMOV.com

Asian stocks rise on last trading day of 2011

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets strengthened Friday, the last day of a tumultuous trading year, after Wall Street posted gains following a spurt of positive U.S. economic data.

Benchmark oil rose above $100 per barrel and the dollar weakened against the yen and the euro.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, after three straight days of losses, rose 0.4 percent to 8,429.45. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.4 percent to 18,466.57. Benchmarks in mainland China, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand were also higher.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 0.1 percent to 4,065.40. Taiwan and Singapore were also lower.

South Korea's benchmark Kospi, whose last trading session of the year was Thursday, nosedived in lockstep with other key Asian indexes that suffered from the effects of natural disasters, a swelling European debt crisis, and a wobbly recovery in the U.S.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 21 percent in 2011 as the impact of Beijing's multibillion-dollar stimulus faded and the government tightened curbs on lending and investment to cool blistering economic growth.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei lost a fifth of its value over the past year, starting with a plunge after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake disaster that destroyed huge chunks of the island nation's northeastern region, left 20,000 people dead or missing and set off the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Disaster damage extended to key suppliers for major companies like Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp., which suffered production disruptions. Later, severe flooding in Thailand caused similar problems for automakers, including Honda Motor Co., but on a smaller scale.

The Nikkei recouped some losses by July, but then started a decline that has the benchmark hovering at below the March value.

On Thursday on Wall Street, positive news on home sales and improved prospects for job growth sent stocks higher Thursday.

The four-week average of unemployment claims fell to a 3 1/2 year low, an indication that hiring could pick up. And the number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes in November rose to the highest level in 18 months, industry experts said.

The Dow closed at 12,287.04, a gain of 1.1 percent. The S&P 500 rose 1.1 percent, to 1,263.02. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite rose 0.9 percent to 2,613.74.

Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 30 cents to $99.95 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 29 cents to settle at $99.65 in New York on Thursday.

In currency trading, the euro rose slightly to $1.2940 from $1.2938 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 77.51 yen from 77.65 yen.

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