Asian markets cheer China manufacturing
Hong Kong - 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 closed at a six-month high as the yen weakened further against the dollar and euro on expectations the country's central bank will unveil fresh monetary easing measures.
Tokyo soared 1.56% to 9 366.80 points to finish at their highest level since early May.
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.
Seoul rose 0.82% to 1 899.50 points while Sydney climbed 1.00% to finish at 4 431.1 points.
In afternoon trade Hong Kong added 0.67%, although Shanghai fell 0.56%, with investors still fretting over corporate woes.
That was despite banking giant HSBC saying 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.
However, Shanghai traders shrugged off the good news.
"An improvement in economic data doesn't necessarily mean a commensurate improvement in corporate earnings," Capital Securities analyst Jacky Zhang told Dow Jones Newswires.
In forex trade the dollar fell to ¥82.43 from ¥82.51 late on Wednesday in New York, although it is still near seven-month highs, while the euro was at ¥105.93 from ¥105.84. The euro also fetched $1.2845, from $1.2826.
Despite the failure of euro zone 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%, the S&P 500 added 0.23% and the Nasdaq gained 0.34%.
On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January added 16 cents to $87.54 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January fell 15c to $110.72.
Gold was at $1 730.61 at 08:40 compared with $1 726.55 late on Wednesday.
In other markets:
* Taipei rose 0.24% to 7 105.76, with chip giant TSMC (up 0.88% at Tw$91.3) leading the gainers and smartphone maker HTC dropping 2.07% to Tw$236.5
* Wellington closed 0.65% up at 3 997.21 points. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare added 2.1% to NZ$2.49, Chorus climbed 1.6% to NZ$3.25 and Fletcher Building was 1.5% higher at NZ$7.84.