Asian stocks rise on China recovery hopes

BANGKOK (AP) — Signs that a slowdown in China may be bottoming out helped to lift Asian stock markets Friday.

Producer prices, or the price of goods once they leave factories, fell in July but at a slower rate than the month before. That was taken as a sign that demand may be strengthening following a prolonged slump. Industrial production and retail sales figures for July will be released later in the day, and analysts are expecting to see steady or slightly improved numbers. Consumer price inflation, meanwhile, was stable.

“Firmer and higher than expected activity numbers, combined with stable and lower than anticipated price pressures, would be positive for sentiment” in China and other emerging markets, analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

On Thursday, customs data showed Chinese exports and imports both increased in July, beating expectations and easing concerns over the slowdown that has dragged down growth in the world’s second-biggest economy to a two-decade low.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.6 percent to 13,687.44. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.1 percent to 1,886.23. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent to 21,741.04. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3 percent to 5,049.40, dragging down by losses in the banking sector.

Mainland Chinese shares rose. Taiwan’s and New Zealand’s fell. Markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines were closed for holidays.

On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to close at 15,498.32. The S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent to 1,697.48. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.4 percent to 3,669.12.

The top concern among stock traders has been the U.S. Federal Reserve and when it might rein in its monetary stimulus. Over the past few years, the Fed has helped keep interest rates super-low in order to spur growth. The program has also been a boon to stock markets, where investors plowed their money in search of returns that bested bonds.

Benchmark oil for September delivery was up 85 cents to $104.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 97 cents to close at $103.40 on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3380 from $1.3377 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 96.57 yen from 96.82 yen.

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