BANGKOK - Encouraging news on the US economy boosted most Asian stock markets Thursday as investors followed Wall Street's lead in shrugging off political turmoil in Egypt and worrying developments in Europe's debt crisis.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng led the modest rally, jumping 1.8 per cent to 20,508.02 after reports that fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week and ADP, a payrolls processor, said that businesses added more jobs last month than analysts had expected.
China's Shanghai Composite rose 1 per cent to 2,013.49. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.9 per cent to 4,786.60. Jakarta's JSX was up 1.3 per cent to 4,638.11 while South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.3 per cent to 1,830.52.
The employment news, added to a muted report on U.S. manufacturing growth, was good enough to restore confidence that the American economic recovery s is on track — but probably not strong enough yet for the Federal Reserve to pull back on its stimulus program.
With Wall Street closed on Thursday for the Independence Day holiday, investors will be watching the U.S. government's jobs report Friday in hopes of figuring out what the Federal Reserve will do next.
Over the past few weeks, markets have sputtered amid speculation that the Fed might taper off its policy of buying $85 billion in bonds every month to keep interest rates low and encourage spending.
"We have had a period of extreme volatility, and now we have some settling going on," said Lorraine Tan, director at Standard & Poor's equity research in Singapore. "I think there's a realization that the reaction may have been overdone."
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 bucked Thursday's trend, edging down 0.1 per cent to 14,046.85. Taiwain's TAIEX was also nearly flat, up 0.1 per cent to 7,914.35.
Asia's mild rally came after Wall Street also entered positive territory, despite Egypt's political crisis and worries over Europe's dormant debt crisis erupting again.
In Europe, stock markets slumped as Portugal's government teetered on the edge of collapse. Investors worried about the future of the bailed-out country and its efforts to get a handle on its debt after two Cabinet members quit.
Investors around the world were also keeping a close watch on the oil price after Egypt's military overthrew the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, who had defied calls to resign despite the demands of millions of protesters.
Egypt is not an oil producer but its control of the Suez canal — one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, which links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea — gives it a crucial role in maintaining global energy supplies.
Benchmark crude for August delivery was up 7 cents to $101.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The day before it climbed to nearly $102, its highest level in more than a year.
In currencies, the euro rose 0.2 per cent to $1.2993. The dollar slipped to 99.75 yen from 99.97 yen.
Pan Pylas in London contributed to this report.