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Asia stocks muted amid mixed economic signs
Asian stock markets make only limited headway amid good and bad news out of US
By The Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian stock markets made only limited headway Friday as traders weighed positive U.S. company earnings and home sales against growing signs of recession in Europe.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.1 percent to 9,551.12 ahead of the Bank of Japan's policy-setting meeting. Investors are hoping the central bank will increase its bond-buying program to support the country's economy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 20,876.34 and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.5 percent to 1,972.71.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 4,365.70 amid signs of a weakening consumer market. Retailers JB Hi-Fi fell 5.3 percent and Harvey Norman lost 3.6 percent.

Samsung Electronics Co., the world's largest consumer electronics firm by revenue, jumped 2.8 percent after reporting a record-high quarterly profit.

U.S. stocks edged higher Thursday, after the National Association of Realtors said that pending home sales rose to the highest level in nearly two years. That's a sign that the U.S. housing market is slowly improving.

Sentiment was further boosted by Lockheed Martin, the aerospace and defense contractor, which beat analyst predictions for first-quarter earnings.

Still, enthusiasm was curtailed after the U.S. Labor Department released data showing that the number of applications for unemployment was little changed from the previous week, a sign that hiring will likely remain modest.

Further headwinds emanated out of Europe, where a European Commission survey showing economic sentiment in the eurozone down more than expected in April reinforced expectations of a recession in the region.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.9 percent to 13,204.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.7 percent to 1,399.98. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.7 percent to 3,050.61.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 42 cents to $104.13 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 43 cents to settle at $104.55 in New York on Thursday

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3202 from $1.3239 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose slightly to 80.95 yen from 80.92 yen.

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