9-1-13 10:52 PM EDT | Email Article

By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch


HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Hong Kong stocks jumped to lead most Asian stock markets higher Monday after manufacturing data on China signaled an improvement in the world's second-largest economy.


The benchmark Hang Seng Index surged 1.7%, setting out on the path to a third straight trading day of gains, while Japan's Nikkei Stock Average and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7% each.


In choppy trading, China's Shanghai Composite itself slipped 0.4%, and South Korea's Kospi was flat.


The broad advances came after official Chinese data released over the weekend showed the manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index for August rose to 51.0 from 50.3 in July. The final reading of a separately conducted survey by HSBC and Markit, released Monday, also put the August PMI reading at 50.1 -- above the 50-point level that signals an expansion -- rebounding strongly from an 11-month low of 47.7 in July.


"The rise in the official manufacturing PMI for August suggests that cyclical improvement in industry continued in August. It likely reflects a consolidation of the improvement in export momentum and the first impact of some measures taken recently to support growth," said Louis Kuijs, a China economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland.


HSBC China chief economist Hongbin Qu also offered similar views, adding that while recent stimulus measures and restocking activities at companies led to the improvement in August, the bank expected "some upside surprises to China's growth in the coming months."


The gains in Asia follow a drop on Wall Street Friday, and amid lingering worries the U.S. may lead a military intervention in Syria, even as President Barack Obama is seeking congressional support for such a move. U.S. stock markets will be closed Monday for Labor Day holiday.


Leading stock gains in Hong Kong, China Shenhua Energy Co. (CSUAY) jumped 3.3%, Sands China Ltd. (SCHYY) climbed 2.5% and heavyweight China Construction Bank Corp. (CICHY) advanced 2.1%.


China Railway Construction Corp. (601186.SH) jumped 4.7% China Railway Group Ltd. (601390.SH) added 3.5% after each posted a more than 45% jump in first-half profits.


The Shanghai-listed shares of China Railway Construction and China Railway Group rose 2.4% and 1.5%, respectively.


Shares of Aluminum Corp. of China, or Chalco (ACH) , gained 1.9% in Hong Kong and were flat in Shanghai despite a loss at the company in the first half of 2013.


The advance in Tokyo came as the U.S. dollar (USDJPY) rose to trade in the mid Yen98-level, providing a lift to several internationally exposed corporations.


Shares of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (MIELY) gained 2.9%, pharmaceutical major Daiichi Sankyo Co. (4568.TO) added 3%, Japan Tobacco Inc. (JAPAF) gained 1.7% and Isuzu Motors Ltd. (ISUZY) advanced 1.8%.


Meanwhile, major miners advanced in Sydney after the Chinese PMI data.


Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO) rose 2% and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FSUMY) climbed 3.3%, although gold miners underperformed after the precious metal's prices dropped under the $1,400-an-ounce level.


Shares of Westpac Banking Corp. (WBK) advanced 1.3% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBAUY) gained 0.3% ahead of an expected decision on Tuesday by Australia's central bank rate to hold the benchmark interest rate at 2.5%.

-V. Phani Kumar; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com


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09-01-13 2252ET

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