By PAMELA SAMPSON
BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ A positive jobs report that pushed the Dow to another record high this week helped boost Asian stock markets on Friday.
The U.S. government reported a drop in the number of people applying for jobless benefits, a positive sign ahead of the release of the February job growth report later in the day.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent to 12,200.45, as a weakening yen boosted export-linked shares. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.9 percent to 22,971.79. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,118.30.Sentiment on Wall Street was boosted after the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 last week. Applications fell 7,000 in the week ended March 2, dropping the four-week average to its lowest level in five years. A drop in weekly applications suggests that companies are laying off fewer workers and that more hiring may follow. "Fewer firings and more hirings are bringing people back into the search for a job when they had previously been too discouraged to bother," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore in an email commentary. "This is great news so the fact that the unemployment rate isn't falling as much as one would like, and probably not at all this month, doesn't mean things aren't happening under the hood." In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.2 percent to close at 14,329.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,544.26. The Nasdaq rose 0.3 percent to 3,232.09. Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 17 cents to $91.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.13 to finish at $91.56 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday. In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3094 from $1.3104 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 95.14 yen from 94.85 yen. ___ Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson