BANGKOK: Encouraging signs about the US housing market and strong earnings from US tech giant Cisco helped lift Asian stock markets Friday.
The US government reported that construction of single-family homes dipped last month, but building permits jumped to their highest level since August 2008, a hint of stronger construction in the coming months. Meanwhile, Cisco Systems, the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment, reported earnings that beat expectations.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.8 per cent to 9,162.96. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent to 20,065.58 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.7 per cent to 4,359.60. South Korea's Kospi fell, however, by 0.5 per cent to 1,949.73.
''Asian markets are mainly up because of the better close on Wall Street. That provided a bit of confidence to risk appetite,'' said Lorraine Tan, director at Standard & Poor's equity research in Singapore.
''I think the main thing coming out of the macro side is that It looks like the US economy is growing, albeit slowly,'' Tan said. ''It is significant that it is not slowing further.''
Markets also took encouragement from remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Thursday that Germany is committed to doing everything it can to maintain the euro currency union.
Last month, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank would do ''whatever it takes'' to preserve the euro and markets surged on hopes of action. Merkel supported Draghi's comments Thursday during an official visit to Canada.
''What he said is something we repeated time and again since the beginning of the Greek difficulties more than two years ago. We feel committed to do everything we can to maintain the common currency,'' Merkel said at a news conference.
The 17 countries that use the euro have been struggling for the past three years to cope with huge debts and recession. Spain and Italy, the two big trouble spots, are threatened with a financial collapse that could tear the 13-year-old currency union apart and rock the global economy.
Fears are mounting that Spain may be next to seek an emergency financial bailout, following Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus. Meanwhile, Italy faces the daunting task of keeping a handle on its huge debt load while fighting a recession.
Among individual stocks, struggling Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp. fell 1.7 per cent after it said it was considering a spinoff of a plant that produces liquid crystal display panels for smartphones, Kyodo News agency said.
Hong Kong-listed China Mobile Ltd., the world's biggest phone carrier by number of subscribers, fell 3.7 per cent a day after it reported profits rose by just 1.5 per cent in the first half of the year.
In the US on Thursday, the Dow rose 85.33 points to 13,250.11, an increase of 0.6 per cent and 29 points away from its May 1 peak of 13,279.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 9.98 points to close at 1,415.51, less than four points shy of its April 2 high. The Nasdaq composite rose 31.46 points to 3,062.39.
Benchmark oil was down 60 cents to $95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.27 to finish at $95.60 per barrel in New York on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2343 from $1.2362 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.31 yen from 79.25 yen.