Asian stocks up slightly on improving US home data

By PAMELA SAMPSON,AP Business Writer Updated at 2012-06-27 07:26:45 +0000


BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets edged up Wednesday as rising home prices in the U.S. eased jitters over the robustness of the world's No. 1 economy.

A report showing that U.S. home prices rose 1.3 percent in April, indicating an uptick a sector closely tied to the health of the overall economy, helped send Wall Street higher on Tuesday. The increase in April was the first in seven months.

The data was a sorely needed bright spot amid signs that a solution to Europe's debt crisis is not close at hand. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to 19,174.18. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.7 percent to 4,040.70. South Korea's Kospi was marginally higher at 1,818.81.

Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.3 percent to 8,686.42 as traders awaited the start Thursday of a summit in Brussels where European Union leaders will try to reach an agreement on dealing with the continent's chronic debt crisis.

Analysts said investors were refraining from big moves ahead of the EU summit, which is the latest attempt to calm a financial crisis roiling the 17-nation euro currency union.

"Buying interest is not strong. Right now the overall market is quite cautious," said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. He said he thought it unlikely that a breakthrough would take place at the summit, given the reluctance of Germany to accept the idea of eurobonds or a banking union that might expose it to the risks of smaller countries hobbled by recessions and debts.

Among individual stocks, Japan's Sony Corp. fell 1.2 percent after frustrated shareholders approved Kazuo Hirai as new president and chief executive. Sony reported its worst loss in its 66-year corporate history for the business year ended March.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power Co., whose damaged power plant set off a nuclear crisis following Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, fell 3.1 percent as shareholders met to weigh the company's future.

Chinese property shares posted solid gains. Hong Kong-listed China Resources Land Ltd. added 2.6 percent and China Overseas Land & Investment gained 2.7 percent.

Worrisome developments in Europe have kept markets in check. Spain's borrowing costs jumped Tuesday in a pair of short-term debt auctions, the latest sign that investors are hesitant to lend the country money. The day before, the credit rating agency Moody's lowered ratings on 28 Spanish banks.

Markets have also been battered by signs of withering economic growth around the world. Manufacturing has slowed in China, and hiring has weakened in the U.S. Analysts said some easing of monetary policy by China could help improve the outlook for growth in the world's No. 2 economy, but that a major gesture by the Chinese central bank was not expected.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent to close at 12,534.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.5 percent to 1,319.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.6 percent to 2,854.06.

Benchmark oil for August delivery was up 7 cents at $79.43 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 15 cents to settle at $79.36 in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar fell slightly to 79.43 yen from 79.47 yen late Tuesday in New York. The euro was nearly unchanged at $1.2500.