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Last updated: February 19. 2013 1:43PM - 106 Views

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(AP) Asian stock markets mostly rose Thursday as investors kept their sights on a possible improvement in China's economy.


A key survey of Chinese manufacturing activity rose to a three-month high in October, easing concerns that China might experience an abrupt economic hard landing rather than a gradual slowdown. The survey, released Wednesday, showed that industrial production continues to shrink, but not as sharply as in the past.


There are positive signs pointing to further gains ahead, with new orders improving and manufacturers finally reporting that they are running down inventories of unsold goods, analysts at Capital Economics said in a market commentary.


Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent to 8,986.24. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent at 1,911.94. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 4,512.80. Benchmarks in Singapore, and the Philippines also rose.


Hong Kong's Hang Seng opened higher but hit resistance and, after peaking close to 22,000, turned fractionally lower to 21,760.24.


Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said Hong Kong's benchmark has risen too much nearly 3,000 points since early September.


It's time for a little breather, he said.


Japanese steelmakers benefited from the brightening investment mood. JFE Holdings rose 3.6 percent and Kobe Steel added 3 percent. South Korea's SK Hynix, the world's second-largest maker of computer memory chips, rose 0.5 percent a day after reporting a small net profit.


More evidence of an improving outlook for the global economy could come later Thursday, when the U.S. government releases U.S. durable goods orders for September. Economists expect the data to show improvement.


The U.S. Federal Reserve announced no new steps at the end of a two-day meeting Wednesday, but many economists think that the Fed will provide more assistance at its last meeting of the year on Dec. 11-12.


The Fed said the economy is still expanding moderately but that growth has been slow and unemployment remains elevated.


Stocks on Wall Street fell Wednesday, but the losses were not as steep as the day before amid a disappointing corporate earnings season. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to 13,077.34. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 0.3 percent to 1,408.75. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.3 percent to 2,981.70.


Apple, Procter & Gamble and Sprint Nextel report quarterly financial results on Thursday. U.S. third-quarter GDP figures will be released Friday.


Benchmark oil for December delivery was up 15 cents to $85.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 94 cents to finish at $85.73 per barrel on Wednesday.


In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2981 from $1.2944 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.97 yen from 79.94 yen.


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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson


Associated Press
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