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Asian stocks rose, with a regional index heading for its first gain in three weeks, as a drop in U.S. jobless claims and an increase in consumer confidence added to signs the world’s biggest economy is weathering Europe’s debt crisis.
The regional index had fallen in the past two weeks as signs of slowing growth in China and concern that Europe’s debt crisis is worsening overshadowed improving U.S. data. Greece’s creditors are resisting pressure from the International Monetary Fund to accept bigger losses on holdings of the indebted nation’s government bonds, three people with direct knowledge of the discussions said.
South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 1.1 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also advanced 1.4 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 1.2 percent. Japanese markets are closed today for a holiday.
New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.3 percent, paring gains of as much as 0.7 percent after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Christchurch, the country’s second-largest city.
Asian exporters gained as the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped last week to the lowest since April 2008 and consumer confidence rose more than forecast in December to a six-month high.
Samsung Electronics increased 1.5 percent to 1.068 million won in Seoul. Li & Fung Ltd. (494), a supplier of clothes and toys to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., rose 1.3 percent to HK$14.32 in Hong Kong. James Hardie climbed 3.6 percent to A$6.96.
Gloucester Coal surged 22 percent to A$8.55 in Sydney. Yanzhou Coal, China’s fourth-biggest coal producer, is buying the Sydney-based company for A$2.1 billion in a cash and share deal that values Gloucester at as much as A$10.16 a share, Gloucester said in a statement.
Yanzhou Coal, which will gain more mines and port access in Australia with the acquisition, climbed 6.6 percent to HK$16.74 in Hong Kong. Noble Group Ltd. (NOBL), the biggest shareholder of Gloucester, was unchanged on S$1.19 in Singapore.
Taiwanese insurance companies rallied after the nation’s financial regulator eased rules to allow life insurers to establish a mechanism for foreign-exchange hedging.
Cathay Financial Holding Co., Taiwan’s biggest life insurer by market value, jumped 6.9 percent to NT$33.3. China Life Insurance Co. gained 6.8 percent to NT$25. Shin Kong Financial Holding Co. climbed 6.6 percent to NT$8.83.
Keppel Corp., the world’s biggest builder of oil platforms, rose 3.1 percent to S$9.54 in Singapore. The company said its Fernvale unit won a contract valued at $809 million to build a semi-submersible drilling rig for Urca Drilling BV, a unit of Petroleo Brasileiro’s Sete Brasil.
European stocks rose, capping the first weekly rally since Dec. 2, as U.S. durable-goods orders and new home sales increased, reinforcing optimism that the recovery in the world’s largest economy is gathering strength.
Orders for U.S. durable goods rose in November by the most in four months as an increase in demand for aircraft outweighed declines in spending on computers and equipment.
Bookings for equipment meant to last at least three years rose 3.8 percent after no change in the prior month that was previously reported as a decline, data from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington.
A separate report showed sales of new U.S. homes rose to a seven-month high in November. Purchases of single-family properties increased 1.6 percent to a 315,000 annual pace, pushing the number of new homes on the market to a record low.
National benchmark indexes climbed in all 18 western- European (SXXP) stock markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 1 percent, Germany’s DAX gained 0.5 percent and France’s CAC 40 gained 1 percent.
Wavin soared 22 percent to 9.58 euros as it granted access to Mexichem to carry out due diligence, after the Latin American chemical producer increased its bid for Wavin to 10 euros from 9 euros.
BP rose 2.1 percent to 459.70 pence, while Total SA added 2.1 percent to 38.64 euros. Crude oil climbed for a fifth day in New York, the longest stretch of gains since Nov. 8.
EDP-Energias de Portugal dropped 0.3 percent to 2.32 euros, erasing an earlier gain of 3.7 percent, after Fitch Ratings reaffirmed the company’s long-term credit rating at BBB+. EDP had advanced after Portugal said China Three Gorges Corp. will pick up a stake in the company.
U.S. stocks rose, pushing the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a 0.6 percent yearly rally, as expansion in U.S. industrial purchases and stronger new-home sales offset weaker-than-forecast consumer spending.
Orders for U.S. durable goods rose in November by 3.8 percent, the most in four months, and more than the 2.2 percent economists had predicted, data from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Consumer spending and incomes rose less than forecast in November, while sales of new U.S. homes rose 1.6 percent to a 315,000 annual pace in November, a seven- month high, and matching the forecast, data show.
Congress passed a two-month payroll tax cut extension today, eight days before its scheduled expiration, after House Republicans dropped their objections under growing political pressure. House Speaker John Boehner agreed late yesterday to extend the tax cut, capping a month of wrangling that led to a revolt by House Republicans over the bipartisan deal passed by the Senate on Dec. 17 in an 89-10 vote. The plan approved today will go to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Walt Disney Co. rose at least 2 percent, pacing gains among the largest companies.
Rambus jumped 12 percent to $8.21. The agreement with Irvine, California-based Broadcom ends all litigation, including claims related to Broadcom’s alleged past use of patented Rambus technology. The license runs for five years, with undisclosed financial terms, Rambus said in a statement.
TripAdvisor Inc., which replaced Tellabs Inc. in the S&P 500 earlier this month, rallied 6.1 percent to $26.02 after plunging 11 percent yesterday. UBS AG rated it a new “neutral,” with a price forecast of $27.
Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. lost the most in the S&P 500 today, falling 5.1 percent to $65.29. The Food and Drug Administration said it may take until next week for test results to show whether infant formula made by the company spurred a bacterial infection that killed a newborn or if something else was at fault.
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