Asian stock markets extend gains as economic indicators improve, BOJ nomination announced

SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stock markets rose Thursday as positive economic indicators and the nomination of a pro-stimulus Bank of Japan chief bolstered hopes for faster growth.

Tokyo’s benchmark led gains in regional stocks after the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated Haruhiko Kuroda, currently president of the Asian Development Bank, to head Japan’s central bank. The Nikkei 225 stock average was up 1.9 per cent to 11,462.63 as the yen weakened.

Kuroda is seen as a supporter of Abe’s efforts to overcome Japan’s 20 years of economic stagnation with bolder monetary easing, a weaker yen and bigger government spending.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi was up 0.9 per cent at 2,021.73 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1.2 per cent to 22,848.18. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8 per cent to 5,077.70. Stocks in mainland China, Singapore and Thailand also rose.

Investors also welcomed a string of improved economic figures from Asia, Europe and the United States.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said industrial production rose 1 per cent from the month before in January, the second straight monthly increase. The ministry suggested a slump in output had bottomed.

On Wednesday, new figures from the U.S. National Association of Realtors showed pending sales rose 4.5 per cent in January, the biggest increase since April 2010.

And in Europe, a survey showed economic sentiment in the 17 euro countries rising by more than anticipated in February.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 175.24 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 14,075.37. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index gained 19.05 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 1,515.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 32.61 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 3,162.26.

In currency markets, the euro was almost flat at $1.3145. The dollar rose 0.1 per cent to 92.35 yen.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 37 cents to $93.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.