Asia stocks rise on data, narrow Russia sanctions

Russian flags decorate a vehicle as pro-Russian soldiers stand outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Ukraine, Monday, March 17, 2014. Crimea's parliament on Monday declared the region an independent state, after its residents voted overwhelmingly to break off from Ukraine and seek to join Russia. Writing reads: "Death to Fascism." (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks rose Tuesday on stronger U.S. factory production and relief that sanctions imposed on Russia following the Crimea reference avoid its vital economic interests.

Oil fell to below $98 per barrel after the threat of disruption to Russian supplies eased.

The regional heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index, rose 1.2 percent to 14,455.75 and China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent to 2,026.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2 percent to 21,508.43.

Sentiment was buoyed by Federal Reserve data showing U.S. factory production in February rose at its fastest rate in six months. That reinforced expectations the Fed will go ahead with a third planned reduction of its stimulus, cutting monthly bond purchases by $10 billion to $55 billion.

"U.S. industrial production rose at its fastest pace in 6 months, suggesting that activity is reverting to normal after being hampered by a period of cold weather," said Mizuho Bank in a report.

That added to relief that penalties imposed by Washington and Europe over the referendum in the Ukrainian region of Crimea avoided measures that might disrupt Russian economic activity.

Western governments imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people from Russia and Crimea seen as playing key roles in organizing what they consider an unlawful vote.

"The West will likely keep to its stance of targeted sanctions on individuals instead of broad-based economic sanctions to avoid harming deep economic ties with Russia," said Mizuho.

Seoul's Kospi index added 0.4 percent to 1,934.88 and Taiwan's Taiex index rose 0.2 percent to 8,721.55.

Sydney's S&P ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 5,350.20. Markets in New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Manila also gained.

On Monday, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.4 percent, Germany's DAX gained 1.2 percent and the CAC-40 in France was up 1.3 percent. Russia's benchmark RTS index shot up 4.9 percent.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average added 181.55 points, or 1.1 percent, to 16,247.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 17.70 points, or 1 percent, to 1,858.83 and the Nasdaq composite rose 34.55 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,279.95.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery declined 18 cents to $97.90 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 81 cents to $98.08 on Monday as concern about possible disruption of supplies from Russia, the biggest exporter, eased.

In currency markets, the euro rose to $1.3934 from $1.3925 late Monday. The dollar fell to 101.79 yen from 101.84 yen.