Australian stocks lead Asia on healthy earnings

August 14, 2014 - 12:05 AM
Financial Markets Wall Street

FILE - This July 15, 2013 file photo shows a sign for Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange, in New York. Global stock markets overcame a contraction in Japan's economy and jitters about Ukraine and Iraq to mostly rise Wednesday, but analysts said new geopolitical developments would likely make for volatile trading. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday, with Australia's benchmark leading gains on a crop of healthy corporate earnings reports.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.6 percent to 15,304.62 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 2,064.09. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7 percent to 5,553.50. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 24,836.01 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China lost 0.1 percent to 2,221.04. Markets in Taiwan, India and Southeast Asia rose.

EARNINGS BONANZA: With earnings season underway, investors are getting a chance to assess the health of the region's companies and in Australia they like what they see. Fairfax Media Ltd. jumped more than 7 percent after the company returned to an annual profit after years of losses. Mobile phone company Telstra Corp. also rose, adding 2.1 percent after posting higher profit. Dozens of companies listed in Hong Kong are also scheduled to release earnings reports, including state-owned China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless carrier by subscribers.

CHINA ECONOMY: Benchmarks in Hong Kong and Shanghai were lagging indexes elsewhere in the region a day after disappointing data on the Chinese economy. Fixed investment and industrial production for July slowed, though the big surprise was the sharp drop in loan growth, which Rabobank analyst Michael Every called "shockingly low."

US CUES: Investors are looking ahead to more hints on the health of the global economy with the release of U.S. unemployment benefit applications later Thursday. They come a day after U.S. retail sales edged up a tiny amount compared with the month before, fueling hopes that the Fed will maintain stimulus.

WALL STREET: The Dow gained 0.6 percent to close at 16,651.80. The S&P 500 rose 0.7 percent to end at 1,946.72. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite climbed 1 percent to 4,434.13.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil for September delivery was down 29 cents to $97.30 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 51 cents to $104.55 in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro slipped to $1.3359 from $1.3365 in late trading Thursday. The dollar rose to 102.59 yen from 102.42 yen.