BANGKOK (AP) — Rising U.S. consumer confidence and home prices painted a picture of a rebounding economy, helping Asian stock markets to post modest gains Wednesday.
Wall Street resumed its record-breaking rally after the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller survey found that U.S. home prices rose 10.9 percent in March, the most since April 2006. On top of that, the Conference Board in Washington reported consumer confidence rising to a five-year high.
"Market sentiment was given a lift overnight with the US consumer confidence index coming in higher than expected and the house price indices showing stronger gains, indicating a strong underlying momentum in the economy in the face of fiscal restraint," said Anthony Lam of Credit Agricole CIB in a commentary.
The figures are particularly encouraging because they indicate that U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the world's largest economy, is firmly recovering.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.3 percent to 14,496.61. South Korea's Kospi advanced 1 percent to 2,005.84. Benchmarks in Taiwan, mainland China, New Zealand and the Philippines also rose. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.7 percent to 22,767.35.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 reversed early losses, sparked by a sell-off among overseas investors as the Aussie dollar weakened against the greenback. The index rose 0.2 percent at 4,965.50. There were also hints of a slight weakening in the Australian economy after data showed a 2 percent decline in construction for the March quarter.
Defensive stocks, especially banking shares, took the brunt of the hit, said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, while miners gained on rising commodities prices. Rio Tinto Ltd. gained 3.6 percent while Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 2 percent.
"It's just a battle of how much the miners move up and the banks move down," said Lucas.
On Tuesday in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.7 percent to 15,409.39, a record high. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.6 percent to 1,660.06. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.9 percent, to 3,488.89.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 26 cents to $94.75 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract for the benchmark grade rose 86 cents to close at $95.01 on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2853 from $1.2876 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 102.38 from 102.08 yen.
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