Asian stocks up thanks to investor optimism

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By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were higher Tuesday, but only slightly, as the optimism that followed the release of data showing an improvement in U.S. hiring began to run its course.

Investment sentiment also remained steady as speculation intensified that the European Central Bank will support struggling countries like Spain and Italy by buying their sovereign bonds.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3 percent to 8,752.28, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 4,281.80. South Korea's Kospi was unchanged at 1,885.93. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand also rose.

Markets fell the first four days of last week after investors were disappointed by the lack of specific action from central banks in Europe and the U.S. to support the economy. The Dow lost 197 points from Monday through Thursday.

The Dow soared 217 points on Friday, however, following a surprisingly strong jobs report. The U.S. economy generated 163,000 jobs last month, the fastest pace since February and far more than economists were expecting.

The upturn was seen as a sign that the U.S. may be resilient enough to pull out of a midyear slump and grow modestly, even as the rest of the world slows down. Investors drove markets higher Monday on hopes that the positive momentum will continue.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to close at 13,117.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.2 percent to 1,394.23. The Nasdaq composite index rose 22.01, or 0.7 percent, to 2,989.91.

Benchmark crude for September delivery fell 30 cents to $91.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 80 cents to finish at $92.20 per barrel in New York.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.2394 from $1.2399 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.18 yen from 78.22 yen.

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