U.S. Jobless Claims Report Sparks Rise in Asian Markets

Asian markets rose Friday. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index gained 1.2% to close at 23,409 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 1.4% to 2,942. Japan's's Nikkei 225 Index added 1% to end the week at 10,694.

A fall in U.S. applications for unemployment benefits sparked a buying spree in Asia. According to figures released by the Labor Department, 20,000 fewer people applied for jobless benefits last week bringing the number of folks receiving unemployment checks to the lowest level since the fall of 2008, according to Bloomberg.

In Hong Kong, shares of shoe and clothing exporters shot up with Yue Yuen Holdings, which makes athletic shoes for the likes of Adidas, Nike and Puma surged 4.5% and Li & Fung, distributor of Asian-made clothing and toys climbed 4.4%. Esprit, maker of trendy clothes popular in Europe and the U.S. advanced 2.7%.

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Foxconn, the Hong Kong subsidiary of Taiwanese Hon Hai, which is contracted to make mobile phones and gadgets like the iPhone and iPad, gained 1.5%, following yesterday's unveiling of Apple's (AAPL) iPad 2. Meanwhile, Chinese Internet and telecom firms climbed higher. Tencent scored a 4.4% rise on the tails of an announcement that Groupon, the U.S. based deals website, will team up with Tencent to offer group-buying services in Beijing and Shanghai, according to the Wall Street Journal -- a great business plan considering the Chinese appetite for bargain shopping. Hutchison Communications surged 3.2% and China Mobile advanced 1.2%.

In China, building-related stocks rallied in anticipation of tomorrow's National People's Congress meetings to discuss economic development including plans to add 36 million affordable homes over the next five years. Baoshan Iron & Steel climbed 2% and Hebei Iron & Steel gained 1.8%. Cement makers, which provide materials for China's signature concrete slab apartment blocks, advanced, with Anhui Conch rising 3% and Sany Heavy Industry jumping 1.8%. Today Maanshan Iron & Steel shot up 7.7%, also helped by the news that it will ramp up production of wheels for China's high-speed rail cars.

In Japan car companies got a boost from the positive U.S. jobless figures, as well as a weaker yen, translating into higher earnings once overseas earnings are repatriated and converted into the local currency. Mazda motored up 3.5%, Isuzu jumped 1.4%, Nissan advanced 1.3% and Toyota gained 1.2%. Honda declined 0.1%.

Sumitomo Electric Industries catapulted up 8.1% after reports circulated that it has developed an electric car battery that should cost only 10% of the price of the current lithium ion batteries. The batteries, which use molten-salt as electroytes and could be available in 2015, were developed with help from Kyoto University, reports greencarcongress.com.

Japanese electronics exporters were also among today's gainers with Konica Minolta climbing 4.2%, Canon surging 1.8% and Sony advancing 1.2%.
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