Most Asian stock indexes rise on upbeat US economic report

HONG KONG – Most Asian stock benchmarks rose Thursday after an upbeat U.S. economic report helped ease persistent investor concerns over Brexit-related global turmoil.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.2 per cent to 15,343.37 as the yen strengthened, making the country’s exports costlier overseas. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 1 per cent to 1,972.41 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.9 per cent to 20,683.90. The Shanghai Composite Index edged 0.2 per cent lower to 3,011.95 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 per cent to 5,215.90.

US DATA: Activity at services companies grew last month at the fastest pace since November, in a sign of a good health for the U.S. economy, the world’s biggest. Production, new orders and export orders all expanded at a faster pace in June while employment rose after shrinking in May, according to the report by the Institute of Supply Management. Investors will now be awaiting a U.S. payrolls report due Friday.

FED MINUTES: The outlook for another U.S. interest rate hiked dimmed further after the release of minutes from the U.S. central bank’s most recent meeting. Policymakers indicated they thought it would be wise to delay a hike until more data showed whether May’s anemic U.S. hiring report was a blip or the start of a trend. Officials also worried about the outcome of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, which had not yet been held when they met June 14-15.

THE QUOTE: “Calmer heads seem to have prevailed in the U.S. and we are once again seeing a situation where the U.S. economy is seemingly looking OK, while the U.K. and Europe are showing increasing signs of fragility,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at Markets in Melbourne.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 per cent to 17,918.62. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 0.5 per cent to 2,099.73. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.8 per cent to 4,859.16.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 100.88 yen from 101.00 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.1090 from $1.1098. The Australian dollar fell as much as half a cent in early trading to $0.7467 after rating agency Standard & Poor’s cut its outlook for the country’s sovereign credit rating to negative from stable because of the government’s weakening financial position.

ENERGY: Oil prices extended gains, with benchmark U.S. crude futures rise 25 cents to $47.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed up 83 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $47.43 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 19 cents to $48.99 a barrel in London.