By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday, supported by Congress averting a U.S. government default and a pickup in China's manufacturing in January.
HSBC Bank said its China manufacturing index rose to a better-than-expected 51.9 in January — a two-year high — from 51.5 in December. A reading above 50 indicates expansion on a scale of 100.
Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said before the survey's release that they expected China to beat estimates. "Manufacturing sentiment should have been boosted by previous fiscal measures and optimism towards the new government," the bank said in an email.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index reversed course after three days of losses, rising 0.7 percent to 10,555.27. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 23,591.83. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 4,804. Benchmarks in mainland China, New Zealand and Singapore also rose. Taiwan fell. Mainland China was mixed.
South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent to 1,9743.95 after the Bank of Korea said the country's economy expanded 0.4 percent in the final three months of last year, falling short of the bank's 0.8 percent growth forecast.
Investors were encouraged by developments in Washington, where the U.S. House of Representatives voted to avert the imminent threat of a government default by suspending the debt limit — the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow.
The law requires that Congress approve raising the amount the government can borrow to pay its obligations as the debt exceeds its limit, currently at $16.4 trillion.
On Wednesday, IBM single-handedly lifted the Dow Jones industrial average to a five-year high. The tech giant's quarterly earnings beat Wall Street's expectations, thanks to its lucrative Internet-based "cloud" computing business and sales of software services. But another tech giant, Apple, reported in after-hours trading that sales fell short of forecasts.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to close at 13,799, the highest level since Oct. 31, 2007. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,494.81. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 percent to 3,153.67.
Benchmark oil for January was up 28 cents to $95.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.45, or 1.5 percent, to finish at $95.23 per barrel, the first decline of more than 1 percent since Dec. 21.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3316 from $1.3321 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 88.92 from 88.66 yen.
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