Asia stock markets rise as Chinese manufacturing improves and fears fade over Syrian civil war

BANGKOK – Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday after the likelihood of an imminent U.S.-led attack against Syria faded and manufacturing rebounded in China and parts of Europe. European shares fell a day after posting strong gains.

President Barack Obama has faced difficulty trying to amass support for U.S. military intervention in Syria, where an alleged chemical attack by government forces killed scores of civilians outside of Damascus. Britain’s parliament voted against involvement, and Russia and China have been critical of the idea.

Obama announced over the weekend that he would seek approval from Congress for military strikes, but he faced skepticism among many U.S. lawmakers about the intelligence regarding the chemical attack and the value of an intervention to United States interests.

“To be sure, a Syria strike no longer being imminent is reason for relief but that does not mean that Syria has dropped off the geo-politics radar,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Singapore.

In early European trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.7 per cent to 6,463.92. Germany’s DAX fell 0.3 per cent to 8,220.23. France’s CAC-40 shed 0.3 per cent to 2,996.37.

Wall Street appeared headed for gains after a three-day holiday weekend. Dow Jones industrial futures advanced 0.8 per cent to 14,907. S&P 500 futures rose 1 per cent to 1,647.20.

Asian stocks advanced on the heels of two reports, released Monday, that showed China’s manufacturing sector improved last month after prolonged weakness.

The HSBC purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.1 points in August, a level that indicates expansion as output and new orders edged up slightly and order backlogs rose at the fastest pace in two years. The official China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing PMI rose to 51.0 from July’s 50.3, which was the highest level and biggest increase this year.

Both indexes use a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate a contraction.

“With improved Chinese economic data, the focus is shifting back to the Chinese economy,” said Jackson Wong, vice-president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 3 per cent to 13,978.44. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.5 per cent to 1,933.74. Australia’s S&P ASX/200 added 0.2 per cent to 5,196.60.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 1 per cent to 22,394.58, with big paper companies getting a boost after the Chinese government said the paper industry suffered from overcapacity. That is an indication that there will be efforts to eliminate smaller companies in favour of bigger ones, Wong said.

Nine Dragons Paper jumped more than 13 per cent in Hong Kong. Lee & Man Paper surged more than 7 per cent.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was down 68 cents to $106.96 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as fears of military strikes on Syria continued to fade. The contract fell $1.15 to close at $107.65 on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3175 from $1.3187 late Monday. The dollar fell to 99.39 yen from 99.56 yen.