HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets bounced back Friday as upbeat U.S. economic data helped shake off worries about future increases in U.S. interest rates.
Trading was subdued as Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.
The Conference Board index of leading indicators, a measure of U.S. economic health, rose in February by the largest amount in three months, suggesting growth should bounce back following a harsh winter. Separately, U.S. jobless benefits rose to near pre-recession levels, suggesting stable job market in the world's largest economy.
The numbers helped to perk up stocks after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen unsettled investors by suggesting earlier this week that U.S. interest rates could rise sooner than markets were anticipating.
"Better than expected data helped but will prove to be a double-edged sword as it increases the odds of Fed monetary tightening during 2015," Credit Agricole CIB strategist Dariusz Kowalczyk said in a commentary. "We expect range-bound currency and rates trading in Asia today, and slightly firmer stock markets."
South Korea's Kospi dropped climbed 0.6 percent to 1,931.22 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent to 21,313.32. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8 percent to 5,338.10.
In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 1.8 percent to 2,029.76 even as China's currency remained weak. The yuan was trading at 6.2238, the lowest in about 13 months.
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