Asia shares rise on higher Japan growth, US jobs

ELAINE KURTENBACH

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday after stronger first quarter growth in Japan added to positive sentiment from solid hiring in the U.S.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was up 0.3 percent at 15,124.00 after the government reported that the economy grew an annualized 6.7 percent in January-March thanks to strong private investment, up from an earlier estimate of 5.9 percent growth.

The revised data shows the world's No. 3 economy in better shape to withstand the drop in consumer demand that followed a 3 percentage point hike in sales tax on April 1.

"Results are certainly stronger than expected," IG strategist Evan Lucas said in a market commentary.

News on Friday that U.S. employers added workers at a decent clip for the fourth straight month propelled the Standard & Poor's 500 to its eighth record high in the previous 10 days, and that sentiment appeared to spill over into Asian trading.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent to 23,088.33 while South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.3 percent to 1,990.04. China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 percent to 2,033.17.

After selling to lock in profits late last week, investors were heartened by economic data, said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

"The short-term uncertainty is over so now the funds are coming back," he said.

Markets in Southeast Asia were mostly higher. Australia's stock exchange was closed for a public holiday.

U.S. employers added 217,000 jobs during May, in the range of what economists had expected. The unemployment rate stayed put at 6.3 percent. Wall Street forecasters had expected it to inch up.

Offsetting the positive U.S. and Japan data were Chinese trade figures released on the weekend showing exports picked up in May but imports fell, suggesting continued sluggishness in the world's No. 2 economy.

In energy markets, U.S. crude for July delivery was up 22 cents to $102.88 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed Friday up 18 cents at $102.66.

The euro was at $1.3643, level with late Friday. The dollar inched down to 102.50 yen from 102.54 yen.