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Samsung, Tencent fuel gains for Nikkei Asia300 Index

Weaker-than-expected Chinese data cap the advances

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan edged higher on Thursday after U.S. stocks rose to a record overnight. Weaker-than-expected economic data from China, however, kept the advances in check.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index rose 0.2% to 1,310.48.

The cues from Wall Street were once again upbeat with all the three major U.S. indices hitting life-time highs for a second day. The record closing followed top Republican in Congress Paul Ryan's statement that an outline of tax reform plans will be unveiled by month end.

However, the latest data from Asia's largest economy disappointed investors on Thursday. China's August retail sales, industrial output and fixed investment all lagged behind expectations.

"The main culprit was a slowdown in infrastructure investment, which also weighed on industrial output," Capital Economics said in a note. "We expect further weakness ahead, as fiscal policy becomes less supportive and the drag from slowing credit growth intensifies."

Heavyweight technology stocks Samsung Electronics and Tencent Holdings were among the biggest contributors by points on the Asia300 index. Samsung added 1.4% in Seoul, and Tencent rose by 0.9% in Hong Kong.

On Thursday after markets closed, Samsung said it is expanding its commitment to autonomous driving technology. The company will set up a $300 million fund to focus exclusively on the automotive market. HARMAN, which Samsung acquired earlier this year, has established a business unit to develop key technologies for safer and smarter connected vehicles, it said.

India's crude oil refiners recovered from Wednesday's sell-off after the county's oil minister denied reports that the government asked the companies to absorb any increase in global crude prices. Indian Oil Corp. added 0.9% and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. rose 1.4%.

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries advanced 4.2% in Mumbai. Credit Suisse upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral" and raised the target price to 595 rupees on growth prospects due to its specialty assets.

In Hong Kong, Anhui Conch Cement rose 3% amid a broader rally in cement stocks. The advance came after China Resources Cement said it expects nine-month net profit through September to increase "significantly." Shares of China Resources Cement added 4.7%.

The H-shares of China Mengniu Dairy advanced 2.3% after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to "overweight" and increased the target price, saying it was incrementally positive on the dairy industry.

In country indices compiled by Nikkei, South Korea climbed 1% and India edged higher by 0.1%. The gauge for Hong Kong dropped 0.6% and China slipped 0.1%. Taiwan ended little changed.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index of Southeast Asian companies advanced 0.5%, helped by rally in the Philippines' stocks. Morgan Stanley said the country is now its top pick in ASEAN markets, upgrading it to "overweight." It cited visible return of earnings growth, tangible action on infrastructure announcements and local tax reforms as the reason for the upgrade.

--Nimesh Vora

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