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Asian stock markets rise as traders look for bargains after recent selloffs
BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian shares were mostly higher Wednesday as investors put aside concerns over flagging consumer and business confidence in developed economies to hunt for bargains after gains on Wall Street.
Oil prices edged lower toward $88 a barrel after the drop in sentiment suggested growth was likely to slow further in coming months.
After four days of gains, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 swung between positive and negative territory. It was up less than 0.1 percent to 8,958.52. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent at 4,275.20.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 20,274.34 and South Korea's Kospi index was 1.4 percent higher at 1,870.16.
Benchmarks in the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore also rose. Shares were lower in mainland China and New Zealand.
Share prices have been pummeled in recent months, but that has presented an opportunity for investors interested in bargains, analysts said.
"The market has been down for quite some time this summer, ever since middle of April," said Hong Kong-based analyst Francis Lun. "The market is poised for a rebound."
Sentiment in Japan was dampened after growth in industrial production fell far short of forecasts in July. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said industrial production edged up 0.6 percent from the previous month ' falling short of its projected 2.2 percent rise.
Still, the increase ' fueled by improvements in transport equipment and general machinery ' underscored the resilience of Japanese industrial sector as it battles back from a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March. Komatsu Ltd., a global leader in equipment making, rose 1 percent.
But the persistently strong yen continued to place a drag on Japan's powerhouse export sector, particularly consumer electronics. Panasonic Corp. lost 2 percent, Sony Corp. fell 1.5 percent and Toshiba Corp. dropped 2.4 percent. Copier maker Ricoh Co. lost 0.3 percent.
Separately, South Korea's LG Electronics jumped 3.6 percent and car maker Hyundai Motor rose 2.8 percent. But gains were held in check elsewhere after South Korea reported that industrial output expanded 3.8 percent last month from a year earlier, the slowest pace since September 2010, Yonhap News agency said.
In Europe on Tuesday, stocks were hurt by a report showing consumer and business sentiment in the 17 countries that use the euro common currency was souring due to uncertainties about the future of the global economic recovery and the region's festering debt crisis.
Wall Street, though, traded higher despite a survey showing a slump in consumer confidence in the U.S., as investors took the opportunity to buy into what they considered cheap stocks.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to close at 11,559.95. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.2 percent to 1,212.92. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.6 percent to 2,576.11.
In currencies, the euro dropped to $1.4431 from $1.4447 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar was lower against Japan's currency, at 76.54 yen from 76.72 yen.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 43 cents to $88.47 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose $1.63 to settle at $88.90 on Tuesday.
In London, Brent crude for October delivery was up 3 cents at $114.05 on the ICE Futures exchange.