(Corrects size of the Asia stock drop on Thursday in third paragraph)
HONG KONG - Asian stocks bounced back on Friday from their worst drop in two months, with investors taking heart from the United States' return to economic growth, which gave reassurance on the recovery's staying power.
Traders said the slide in shares and higher-yielding currencies the previous day was caused in part by hedge funds pulling out funds from winning bets this year as many in the United States are closing their books for the year next month.
The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 2 percent after a tumble of 1.6 percent on Thursday and a combined 4 percent during the previous two days -- the biggest since stock markets bottomed out in March.
Commodities recovered along with stocks. Crude oil prices held near $80 a barrel and a one-year peak struck last week. But the Australian dollar, the major currency offering the highest yield, slipped as some market players booked profits on its 2 percent surge -- the biggest since June.
Analysts said the 3.5 percent annualized growth in the United States during the third quarter, pulling the economy out of its worst recession since the Great Depression, pointed to further growth ahead thanks to expected corporate inventory rebuilding and government spending.
The GDP number was supportive of a better economic growth environment. The higher-risk stocks are finding more support, said RBS Australia head of distribution Leigh Gardner. The growth trajectory in North America and in Australia is supportive of markets going higher.
HOPES FOR QUICK REVIVAL
The figures helped relieve some investor worries that the global recovery was losing momentum, which had prompted some to take profits on this year's equity market surge as heavy government stimulus and interventions helped revive growth more quickly than expected.
The MSCI benchmark for Asia is up nearly 60 percent this year, staging a rebound from a record yearly fall last year as the financial firestorm dragged the world economy into recession.
South Korea's Samsung Electronics <005930.KS>, a bellwether for Asian technology companies and the world's top maker of memory chips and LCD screens, reported its best-ever quarterly profit and forecast a strong 2010.
Samsung's shares jumped 2.7 percent, outpacing the 0.8 percent rise in Seoul's benchmark KOSPI index <.KS11>.
Shares in Hong Kong were the strongest in Asia. The Hang Seng <.HSI> jumped 3 percent, with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) the biggest contributor as it gained 4.4 percent after a 19 percent rise in quarterly profit.
Across the border in Shenzhen, Chinese investors flocked to the new start-up ChiNext market <0#CHINEXT.SZ> on its first day of trade.
All 28 shares in the market have been halted for 30 minutes at least once after they rose 20 percent from their opening prices, setting off circuit-breakers and underscoring massive speculation in China's nascent stock market.
The dollar was steady after having lost ground the previous day on the hefty gains in higher-yielding currencies.
The dollar index, a gauge of its performance against a basket of six leading currencies, was flat at 75.884. The euro drifted up 0.1 percent to $1.4845, while the dollar dipped 0.2 percent to 91.30 yen. Gold prices
The Aussie slipped 0.1 percent to $0.9150 and holding below a 14-month peak of $0.9330.
Solid equity market gains dented government bonds and pushed yields up. The benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond yield edged up half a basis point to 1.410 percent and held near a two-month peak as the Nikkei <.N225> climbed 1.4 percent.
Worries about how much new bond supply the government may have to issue to cover a shortfall in tax revenue has hounded the JGB market. Vice Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Reuters on Thursday that new issuance for the fiscal year to March 2010 may hit 50 trillion yen ($554 billion), up from the 44 trillion planned before.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Thieberger in Melbourne; Editing by Jan Dahinten)