Asia stocks mixed after US durable goods falls

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By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stocks rose Thursday as mixed U.S. corporate earnings and a slump in orders for U.S. durable goods convinced investors that central banks would continue efforts to help the global economic recovery.

The U.S. government reported Wednesday that orders for long-lasting factory goods fell more than economists expected. That added to concerns that global growth is slowing. Orders for durable goods declined 5.7 percent in March following a 4.3 percent gain the previous month. The March figure was the biggest dip in seven months.

Mitul Kotecha at Credit Agricole CIB said that data reinforced concerns of an economic slowdown. However, he said that markets were thrust higher by hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks would continue to pursue policies to encourage growth.

"There has been a run of weaker U.S. data and that effectively dampens expectations that the Fed may pare back its asset purchases prematurely or early, and I think that is supportive of equity markets," Kotecha said.

He also noted that core capital goods, which strip out defense and aircraft orders, were "quite healthy," edging up 0.2 percent. Economists pay close attention to these orders because they are a good measure of companies' investment plans.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent to 13,909.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 1.1 percent to 22,421.93. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,939.98. Benchmark indexes in mainland China, Singapore, and Thailand also rose. Indonesia and Taiwan fell. Markets in Australia and New Zealand were closed for public holidays.

Rising metals prices helped stocks such as Hong Kong-listed Zijin Mining Group, China's largest gold miner, which rose 5.3 percent. Jiangxi Copper Co. rose 4.4 percent.

Stocks in Europe posted gains Wednesday as investors grew more hopeful of an interest rate cut from the European Central Bank after another weak business survey for Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

The Ifo Institute said its main index of business optimism fell to 104.4 points from 106.7 in March. Market analysts had expected a more modest decline to 106.2.

European markets have also been buoyed in recent days by progress in Italy to produce a government after inconclusive elections in February.

On Wall Street, however, disappointment over durable goods order was compounded by quarterly results that included a subscriber slump at AT&T and a weak profit forecast from Procter & Gamble.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3 percent to close at 14,676.30. The Standard& Poor's 500 index was flat at 1,578.79. The Nasdaq composite rose marginally to 3,269.65.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 49 cents to $91.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $2.25, or 2.5 percent, to finish at $91.43 a barrel Wednesday on the Nymex.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3041 from $1.3021 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 99.28 yen from 99.51 yen.

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