By EILEEN NG
2014-02-14 01:42 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Asian stock markets were mostly higher Friday after China's inflation was steady in January, leaving its government room to stimulate the economy if a slowdown worsens.
The Chinese data added to the boost from Wall Street's gains which came despite slower retail sales. Time Warner Cable surged 7 percent after the company agreed to be acquired by rival Comcast for $45.2 billion in stock. The deal would combine the top two cable TV companies in the United States.
South Korea's Kospi rose 0.7 percent to 1,940.75. But Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average dropped 1.1 percent to 14,379.68 as the yen strengthened against the dollar, a negative for share prices of exporters. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.8 percent to 5,350.30.
China's consumer prices rose 2.5 percent over a year earlier in January. The rise in politically sensitive food costs decelerated to 3.7 percent from December's 4.1 percent.
Lower inflation is one less distraction for communist leaders as they focus on carrying out ambitious promises of reforms aimed at making China's economy more productive and keeping incomes rising.
A report showed that cold weather caused U.S. retail sales to drop in January for a second straight month as Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants during a brutally cold month. Weekly jobless claims were higher than expected. But the data didn't faze stock investors.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.57 points, or 0.6 percent, to end at 1,829.83 on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 63.65 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,027.59.
Testimony by Fed's new chairman Janet Yellen before the Senate was postponed due to weather-related issues.
Yellen earlier this week confirmed she was happy with the current pace with which the Fed is tapering or withdrawing its monetary stimulus and that interest rates would remain low for a while to come.
"Perhaps some are hoping the disappointing data could result in the Fed diverting or pausing its current tapering path, but given the recent comments from Yellen and other Fed members, this seems unlikely," Stan Shamu, market strategist with IG in Melbourne, Australia, said in a report.
Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was down 13 cents at $100.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract eased 2 cents to close at $100.35 on Thursday.
In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3685 from $1.3676 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 101.65 yen from 102.34 yen.