The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Asian stocks mostly higher after US, China gives signs of stronger growth

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BEIJING, China - Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday on improved U.S. and Chinese economic activity.

The regional heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225, gained 0.5 per cent to 15,406.03 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1 per cent to 23,409.33 and Taipei, Seoul and Sydney also gained. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.2 per cent at 2,046.25.

Traders were encouraged by surveys showing China's manufacturing activity improved in June for the first time in six months. That came on top of the government's decision to expand credit by allowing banks to lend more relative to the size of their deposits.

Both developments "bode well for growth," said Credit Agricole CIB economist Dariusz Kowalczyk in a report.

In the United States, the Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity grew in June, though at a slower pace than in May.

"Markets saw this as a positive," said CMC Markets in a report.

Taiwan's Taiex added 1.1 per cent to 9,545.96 and Seoul's Kospi rose 0.7 per cent to 2,013.29. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.2 per cent to 5,439.60. Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand also rose.

On Tuesday, Britain's FTSE 100 and France's CAC 40 both rose 0.9 per cent. Germany's DAX advanced 0.7 per cent.

Shares in BNP Paribas, France's biggest bank, rose 3.6 per cent after it said would be able to pay a nearly $9 billion U.S. fine for violating a ban on handling transactions for clients in Sudan, Cuba and Iran. The United States is trying to block them from participation in the global financial system.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8 per cent to close Tuesday at 16,956.07. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 gained 0.7 per cent to 1,973.32.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery added 7 cents to $105.41 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 3 cents on Tuesday to close at $105.34.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 101.62 yen from 101.50 yen late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.3680 from $1.3682.

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