Asian stocks gain as US data eclipses Greek risk

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stocks were higher on Thursday as strong U.S. payroll data overshadowed worries about Greek debt.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent to 20,564.59 while South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,106.20. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent to 26,396.56 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.1 percent to 5,576.70. Stocks in Southeast Asia and New Zealand were also higher.

US DATA WATCH: Payroll processor ADP said businesses added 237,000 jobs last month, up from 203,000 in May and the most since December. A separate survey showed U.S. manufacturing growth improved in June. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its manufacturing index rose to the highest level this year.

GREEK WATCH: Greece's government pressed ahead Wednesday with its plan to put austerity measures to voters after European creditors rebuffed its latest proposal for a new aid program. Eurozone finance ministers refused to negotiate any more aid until the referendum clears up what the country wants. Greece failed to repay a loan to the International Monetary Fund that was due on Tuesday after talks between the nations and its creditors broke down late last week.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "The latest news from Greece was somewhat ambiguous," Mizuho Bank said in a daily commentary. "Markets appear to have shifted attention US data releases, albeit temporarily ... ADP was much better than expected and this also suggests that (nonfarm payrolls) today may be strong."

MORE DATA: The U.S. government's monthly nonfarm payrolls report will be published later on Thursday. The consensus forecast is that employers added a solid 233,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent from May.

WALL STREET: Wall Street closed higher on Wednesday on hopes that a deal could be reached between Greece and its creditors. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14.31 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,077.42. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 138.40 points, or 0.8 percent, to 17,757.91. The Nasdaq composite gained 26.26 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,013.12.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude added 9 cents to $57.05 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $2.51 to close at $56.96 a barrel in New York on Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, gained 23 cents at $62.24 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: In currency trading, the euro strengthened to $1.1075 from $1.1041 in the previous session. The dollar rose to 123.33 yen from 123.24 yen.