Asian markets start week on brighter note, cheered by upbeat U.S. data

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks started the week on a brighter note on Monday, after solid U.S. data and earnings calmed tumult in global financial markets and reassured investors worried about the health of the world economy.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment was surprisingly strong in early October, rising to more than a seven-year high. Other data also showed new housing starts rose more than expected last month, suggesting U.S. economic growth was solid.

The upbeat U.S. data has brought some calm to markets after a week of turbulence as signs of softening global growth rattled investors, sending volatility spiking to levels not seen in years. "Sentiment has seemingly been unaffected by the market volatility," strategists at Barclays said in a note to clients.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up about 0.6 per cent in early trade, and Japan's Nikkei stock average surged about 2.6 per cent, retaking some of the 5 per cent it shed in the previous week.

On Wall Street on Friday, all major stock indexes climbed more than 1 per cent, though the S&P 500 posted its fourth straight weekly decline, its longest streak in more than three years.

U.S. earnings will remain in the spotlight this week, with results due from 128 S&P 500 companies, including six Dow components.

Out of the 81 S&P 500 component companies that have already reported third-quarter results, 64.2 percent have beaten expectations, a rate slightly below the average over the past four quarters but better than the past 20 years.

Asian investors will also pay attention to developments in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests entered their fourth week and demonstrators appeared increasingly willing to confront police.