Positive U.S. Jobs Data Strengthens Asian Markets

Asian markets climbed higher Thursday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index surged 1.8% to 10,169 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index rose 0.9% to 23,449. China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.7% to 2,844.

Some positive numbers out of the U.S. were enough to trigger a spike in investor confidence today. According to an ADP Employer Services report, 93,000 workers were added to November payrolls, surpassing analysts estimates, says Businessweek. "People aren't worrying about recession now," a manager at Hong Kong's Fulbright Securities told Bloomberg. "Market confidence is likely to continue for the rest of the year."

Even so, there are still predictions that a double-dip recession is in the cards and that U.S. unemployment could swell to 10% next year. Even the UN foresees a slowdown in growth in 2011, revising its forecast for global expansion down to 3.1%, with growth in the Eurozone predicted to "virtually stagnate" at 1.3% in its World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011 report.

Today Japanese exporters got a boost from the cheery U.S. employment news. Electronics makers rallied with Canon surging 2.5%, Casio Computer climbing 1.4% and Panasonic advancing 0.7%. Among the Japanese big game makers likely to benefit from the Christmas shopping season, Sony gained 0.8% and Nintendo rose 0.6%. Sega Sammy, a maker of video programs, arcade games and pachinko machines jumped 5.6%.

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Japanese car companies, gearing up for holiday sales, climbed higher. Nissan spiked 3.1%, Mazda motored up 2.2%, Honda jumped 1.8% and Isuzu added 1.3%. Toyota, however, tumbled 0.6%, reporting a 7.3% decline in November sales as compared with the same month last year, according to autospies.com. And that added to the woes of Japan's No. 1 auto maker having to repair more than 8 million vehicles this year.

Investors in Chinese power-generating companies were richly rewarded after Beijing ordered a freeze on coal prices, which should translate into profits during the freezing winter months. Hong Kong-listed Huaneng Power International and Datang International Power Generation both skyrocketed 6.8% and China Resource Power leaped 4.3% China Shenhua Energy, however, plunged 5.1% and China Coal, which mines and sells coal, sank 4.4%.

A jump in the price of crude oil sent Hong Kong oil and gas companies higher. Cnooc surged 3.2% and PetroChina rose 2.4%. Metals also gained in London yesterday, helping Zhaojin Mining Industry climb 4.4% and Jiangxi Copper reap a 3.7% gain.

In China Huaneng Power International also saw gains, rising 3.3%, while Shanghai Electric Power, which also operates coal-fired plants, spiked 5.3%.

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