Asian shares gain despite downbeat data


Asian shares rose on Friday, tracking gains on Wall Street and in European markets despite downcast eurozone growth data and statistics showing a larger-than-expected rise in US jobless claims.

Hong Kong gained 0.62 percent, or 153.58 points, to 24,954.94, Shanghai climbed 0.92 percent, or 20.26 points, to 2,226.73, Sydney added 0.32 percent, or 18 points, to 5,566.5, while Tokyo ended flat, edging up 3.77 points to 15,318.34.

Mumbai and Seoul were shut for public holidays.

The rise followed a positive lead from Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.37 percent to 16,713.58 on Thursday, extending the prior day's gains.

Traders shrugged off the rise in initial claims for US unemployment insurance benefits last week that did not alter the still-improving trend in the volatile weekly data.

New jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, rose to a six-week high of 311,000 in the week ending August 9, up 21,000 from the prior week's revised 290,000, the Labor Department said.

The four-week moving average was up 2,000 to 295,750, but still reflected an improving jobs market. A year ago the average stood at 335,000 claims.

Investors also appeared to view Thursday's weak second quarter eurozone growth data -- dragged down by Germany and France -- as likely to spur the European Central Bank to step in with more stimulus for the 18-nation bloc.

Currency markets were stable on easing concerns over the situation in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to the crisis in the violence-wracked country.

Putin said Moscow should not "fence itself off from the outside world" despite a plunge in East-West relations over the pro-Kremlin insurgency in Ukraine.

Investors interpreted the remarks as a signal by Putin that he preferred not to escalate the deadly Ukrainian crisis much further.

The dollar was at 102.53 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with 102.45 yen in New York late Thursday.

The euro bought $1.3363 and 137.07 yen against $1.3365 and 136.93 yen in US trade.

In oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery rose three cents to $95.61 while Brent crude for October was up 54 cents to $102.61 in afternoon trade.

Gold traded at $1,313.53 an ounce at 0842 GMT compared to $1,310.00 an ounce late Thursday.

In other markets:

-- Wellington rose 0.31 percent, or 15.67 points, to 5,078.08.

Spark was up 1.05 percent at NZ$2.88 percent and Warehouse Group gained 1.29 percent to NZ$3.14.

-- Taipei fell 0.26 percent, or 23.8 points, to 9,206.81.

Hon Hai lost 1.38 percent to Tw$107.5 while HTC rose 0.4 percent to Tw$127.0.

-- Manila lost 0.74 percent, or 52.49 points, to 7,008.51.

Budget supermarket chain Puregold plunged 8.73 percent to 36.05 pesos, Alliance Global fell 3.35 percent to 26.00 pesos and BDO Unibank eased 0.22 percent to 91.50 pesos.