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Workers assemble vehicles in Qingzhou, east China's Shandong Province on August 21, 2012/XINHUA


Asian markets rise, China manufacturing picks up

Workers assemble vehicles in Qingzhou, east China’s Shandong Province on August 21, 2012/XINHUA

HONG KONG, Nov 22 – Asian markets mostly climbed on Thursday as Chinese manufacturing data indicated the economy continues to pick up, while the euro extended its gains on hopes a deal on Greece’s bailout will be agreed.

Japanese shares hit at six-month high at one point, as the yen weakened further against the dollar and euro on expectations the country’s central bank will unveil fresh monetary easing measures.

The Nikkei was up 1.05 percent by the break while Hong Kong added 0.31 percent, Sydney advanced 1.21 percent and Seoul was 0.71 percent higher. However Shanghai fell 0.67 percent, with investors still fretting over corporate woes.

Banking giant HSBC said China’s manufacturing activity grew for the first time in more than a year in November, reinforcing recent views that the economy is beginning to pick up after several months of slowdown.

The bank’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) stood at 50.4 this month, compared with 49.5 in October. Anything above 50 points to growth and anything below indicates contraction.

It is the first reading above 50 since October 2011 and adds to a slew of upbeat trade, investment and sales figures released this month and last that have fuelled optimism.

“This confirms that the economic recovery continues to gain momentum towards the year end,” Qu Hongbin, HSBC’s chief economist for China, said in the bank’s release.

In Japan the Nikkei surged 1.46 percent to its highest point since May as it continues to benefit from the weakening yen.

Traders have been selling the Japanese unit since Shinzo Abe, the country’s opposition leader and the man likely to become prime minister after next month’s election, said he would press for unlimited monetary easing to lift the economy.

Expectations have been boosted this week by the central bank’s downcast outlook for near-term growth and the worst October trade figures for 30 years.

In forex trade the dollar rose to 82.53 yen from 82.51 yen late Wednesday in New York, while the euro was at 106.02 yen from 105.84 yen. The euro also fetched $1.2846, from $1.2826.

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Despite the failure of eurozone finance ministers to agree on the release of the next tranche of bailout money for Greece, there is confidence a deal will be struck when they meet for a third time in as many weeks on Monday.

The euro remains well-bought despite Wednesday’s disappointing news on Greece’s cash, while traders also brushed off Moody’s decision to downgrade France’s credit rating.

Asian markets were given a positive lead from Wall Street, which was lifted by news of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, ending eight days of bloody fighting, while jobs claims fell again last week.

The Dow rose 0.38 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.23 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.34 percent.

The ceasefire in the Middle East capped gains in oil prices, however.

In the morning New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January added 29 cents to $87.67 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January gained 17 cents to $111.03.

Gold was at $1,730.55 at 0230 GMT compared with $1,726.55 late Wednesday.

— Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this story —

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