SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japanese stocks rose Thursday on a weaker yen though other Asian markets showed softer gains despite fresh signs that the economic recovery in the United States could pick up speed.
Oil prices hovered above $90 a barrel in Asia after a better than expected U.S. jobs report bolstered investor optimism that crude demand will improve. The dollar was slightly lower against the yen but up against the euro.
Whether growth in the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, will strengthen enough this year to generate sufficient job growth to dent the persistently high unemployment left over from the financial crisis and recession is a key focus for investors this year.
U.S. data released Wednesday showed that strength in consumer demand boosted a key service sector indicator to its highest level in more than four years. A separate payroll survey, meanwhile, showed that private companies added 297,000 jobs last month, nearly triple the number economists forecast.
The unexpectedly high jobs survey from payroll processor ADP suggests that a closely watched Labor Department report later this week could also be strong.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average, Asia’s largest market, rose 1.3 percent to 10,516.89. Exporters, whose overseas earnings are hurt by a strong yen, climbed after the jobs data bolstered the dollar above 83 yen overnight.
Toyota Motor Corp. added 2.9 percent, and Canon Inc. rose 1.2 percent.
Gains elsewhere were more modest. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up by a fraction to 23,766.63. Shares in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also gained.
South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.3 percent to 2,075.85, while China’s Shanghai Composite index lost 0.2 percent to 2,831.87. Shares in Thailand and Indonesia also declined.
The service and hiring data are adding to the view that “the U.S. economy would start to recover at a faster pace than expected,” said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong. He said that profit-taking in China, however, was exerting some downward pressure on stocks there and elsewhere.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200, meanwhile, recovered from earlier declines to rise 0.1 percent to 4,826.80 amid uncertainties about the financial impact of the severe floods in Queensland, northeastern Australia.
The state is a center of Australia’s coal mining industry and 40 mines have been shut because of the flooding. Some coal companies have begun to downgrade profit projections as a result.
In New York Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose for the third straight session amid the positive economic news, adding 31.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 11,722.8. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.36, or 0.5 percent, to 1,276.56. The Nasdaq rose 20.95, or 0.8 percent, to 2,702.20.
In currencies, the dollar was trading during Asian hours at 83.24 yen from 83.26 yen late Wednesday. The euro stood at $1.3141 from $1.3148.
Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 1 cent to $90.31 a barrel midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 92 cents to settle at $90.30 on Wednesday.