| GEO Business|
| Asian markets boosted by US, China data|
| Updated at: 0952 PST, Thursday, April 15, 2010|
HONG KONG: Better-than-expected US consumer spending data and strong corporate results boosted Asian stocks Thursday as blistering Chinese growth figures increased pressure on Beijing to raise interest rates.
Comments by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke that the US would likely see a "moderate economic recovery" also helped the dollar as dealers grew more optimistic over the global recovery.
Shanghai rose 0.45 percent in early trade following the release of data showing China's economy grew 11.9 percent in the first three months of 2010, the second straight months of double-digit growth.
The government also revealed that the consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, rose 2.2 percent in the same period, while retail sales jumped 17.9 percent in the January-March period.
The figures will stoke speculation that Beijing will increase interest rates to keep a lid on inflation and also loosen controls on its currency, which critics say is being kept artificially weak to boost exports.
Meanwhile Tokyo was 0.70 percent higher and Hong Kong was up 0.43 percent, while Sydney added 0.19 percent as investors welcomed US figures showing retail sales rose 1.6 percent in March, reflecting growing strength of consumer spending.
A separate report revealed consumer prices rose just 0.1 percent in the same month. US consumer spending is keenly watched as it is traditionally a key driver of the world's biggest economy.
The news came as Bernanke told Congress that economic demand would be enough to "promote a moderate economic recovery in coming quarters", adding that interest rates would be kept at super low levels for an "extended period".
Wall Street cheered the news and was also given a lift by JPMorgan Chase reporting a 55 percent jump in earnings as the banking giant appeared to continue its journey back to health after the financial crisis.
Comments from its chief executive Jamie Dimon further helped sentiment.
"While the economy still faces challenges, there have been clear and broad-based improvements in underlying trends," he said. "We believe these improvements will continue and are hopeful they will gather momentum, resulting in a strong recovery."
The Wall Street rise gave a cue to Asian markets, with Singapore up 0.21 percent and Taipei 0.48 percent higher.
The dollar firmed to 93.40 yen in Tokyo morning trade from 93.24 in New York late Wednesday. The euro dipped to 1.3649 dollars from 1.3656 but edged up to 127.48 yen from 127.33.
Oil was higher, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, up 25 cents to 86.09 dollars a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for May was 30 cents higher at 86.45 dollars.
Gold opened at 1,157.50-1,158.50 US dollars an ounce, up from Wednesday's close of 1,155.00-1,156.00 dollars.