By PAMELA SAMPSONBANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets posted modest gains Friday, ignoring a raft of disappointing U.S. corporate earnings as officials from the world's biggest economies meet in Washington to search for ways to remedy sluggish global growth. Officials of the Group of 20 were to wrap up discussions later in the day and issue a statement that is expected to touch on the need for steps to encourage economic growth while avoiding currency devaluations to gain advantages in trade. The G-20 is composed of the world's major developed countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany and fast-growing developing nations including China, Brazil and India. Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said market sentiment was hurt by the release of some disappointing U.S. economic news. More people applied for unemployment benefits last week and manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region. Those reports followed several recent signs of weakness in the economy, including a sharp slowdown in hiring last month and poor retail sales. "Looking forward ... the focus will likely be any G20 statements on currency manipulation," the bank said in a commentary. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 percent to 13,285.31. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.8 percent to 21,677.15. South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 1,906.07. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 4,935. In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares dropped almost 0.1 percent to close at 6,243.67 on Thursday while Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent to 7,473.73. The CAC-40 in France ended flat at 3,599.36. Disappointing earnings from Morgan Stanley, UnitedHealth Group and eBay pushed Wall Street stocks lower. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.6 percent to close at 14,537.14. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.7 percent to 1,541.61. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.2 percent, to 3,166.36.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 33 cents to $88.06 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.05, or 1.2 percent, to finish at $87.73 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3067 from $1.3048 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 98.64 from 98.12 yen. ___ Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson