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Asian stocks mixed ahead of Obama jobs speech
Asian stock markets mixed as investors brace for Obama jobs speech
By The Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian stock markets struggled for direction Thursday as uncertainties about the health of the global economy kept investor enthusiasm in check ahead of President Barack Obama's jobs speech.

Benchmark oil rose above $89 a barrel and the dollar strengthened against the euro and the yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 percent to 8,804.62 as a softening yen helped Japan's exporters by making their products cheaper overseas. Office equipment-maker Canon Inc. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which relies heavily on exports to North America, both gained 1 percent.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 percent at 1,837.52. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Malaysia, New Zealand and the Philippines were also higher. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 0.8 percent to 19,881.80 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3 percent at 4,170.20.

Wall Street stocks rose sharply Wednesday after a German court backed the country's role in bailing out smaller, debt-wracked European nations and Italy approved a controversial austerity package to stave off a budget and loan crisis of its own.

The European Central Bank had demanded stiff austerity measures from Italy, but it's not clear whether the package is sufficient. The ECB has spent billions over the last month buying up Italian government bonds to get Italy's borrowing costs lower and help it avoid becoming the next European nation to need an international bailout.

Traders are also hoping that President Barack Obama will announce a $300 billion jobs package made up of tax cuts, state aid and infrastructure spending in an address to Congress on Thursday night.

The U.S. job market needs big help. In August, the economy added no new jobs. And the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, a level more typical for a recession than for a recovery in its third year.

Worries over weakness in the U.S. job market and Europe's massive debt predicament have led to recent heavy losses on global stock markets.

But investment sentiment improved after a Federal Reserve survey Wednesday showed that the U.S. economy grew modestly in its 12 bank regions in July and August as consumers spent more.

The Dow surged 2.5 percent to close at 11,414.86. The Standard and Poor's 500 index jumped 2.9 percent to 1,198.62. The Nasdaq composite shot up 3 percent to 2,548.94.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 10 cents to $89.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $3.32 to finish at $89.34 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

Oil surged nearly 4 percent Wednesday on the expectation that tropical storms will further hamper oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and squeeze supplies.

In currency trading, the dollar rose to 77.38 yen from 77.25 yen in late trading Wednesday in New York. The euro fell to $1.4057 from $1.4093

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