Friday, December 23, 2011

GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares up as U.S. data drives year-end gains

Larger Smaller Reset SINGAPORE (Dec 23): Asian stocks edged up on Friday, as signs of a strengthening economy in the United States encouraged a modest year-end rally in riskier assets.

Wall Street stocks had risen for a third straight day on Thursday, leaving the S&P 500 index virtually flat for the year, after data showed new claims for unemployment benefit dropped to their lowest in 3-1/2 years.

The euro crept fractionally higher, but remained subdued amid doubts over how effective this week's European Central Bank tender of cheap loans will be in easing the financial strain on troubled euro zone economies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5 percent, with Australian shares rising more than 1 percent. Tokyo's financial markets were closed for a holiday.

Asian equity markets, both developed and emerging, have sharply underperformed U.S. stocks in 2011, with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan and the Nikkei share average both down about 18 percent, while Australia's benchmark has lost about 13 percent.

The euro crawled up to around $1.3055 in thin trade.

The ECB's first ever tender of ultra-cheap three-year loans on Wednesday, which saw 523 banks gorge on a total of 489 billion euros, has failed to win the single currency much support.

But despite the long-running debt crisis the euro is only down around 2.5 percent for the year, having found support from higher ECB interest rates in the first half of 2011 that pushed it to a year high near $1.50 in May. - Reuters

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