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updated: 2/1/2013 7:31 AM

Asia stock markets up as Dow logs strong January

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Associated Press

BANGKOK -- Asian stock markets were mostly higher Friday as a weak jobs report from the U.S. was tempered by Wall Street's overall sterling performance for January.

Japan's Nikkei 225, meanwhile, was once again energized by the yen's continued descent against the dollar. The index rose 0.7 percent to 11,219.20.

On Thursday in the U.S., the government reported that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. Investors had hoped to see better results since applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows.

Still, investors buoyed by improvements in the U.S. housing and jobs markets and decent corporate earnings have been scooping up stocks.

Although the Dow Jones industrial average finished lower on Thursday, the index logged its best January since 1994 by finishing 5.8 percent higher for the month. The Standard & Poor's 500 finished the month 5 percent higher, its best start to the year since 1997.

"There is a general feeling in the US that markets are due for a breather, and after such a red-hot month any excuse to take profits looks likely," said Evan Lucas of IG Markets in Melbourne.

Updated data on manufacturing in China fell short of expectations. Industrial production is still growing, but at a slower pace, according to the government-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. It reported growth in January at 50.4 on a 100-point scale. While numbers above 50 indicate expansion, the pace slowed from December's 50.6.

"It's still above 50. It's a slight drawback, but I don't think anyone has paid much attention to it," said Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 23,624.52. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 1,964.48. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9 percent to 4,921.20. The ASX closed at 4,879 on Thursday, capping its best January since 1995, Lucas said.

Among individual stocks, South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction plummeted 7.2 percent. Japanese phone company Softbank, which said Thursday its net profit more than doubled in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, jumped 5.7 percent.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 3 cents to $97.52 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 45 cents to close at $97.49 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, euro rose to $1.3627 from $1.3574 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 92.21 yen from 91.38 yen.

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