• Asia markets up, weak US data tempers rate talk

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    HONG KONG: Asian stock markets mostly pushed higher on Tuesday, while the dollar eased after weak US data appeared to pour cold water on talk of an early summer US interest rate rise.

    The poor figures on US manufacturing and industrial output helped propel US shares higher, providing a strong lead for Asia.

    Tokyo climbed 0.99 percent, or 190.94 points, to end at a 15-year high of 19,437.00. Sydney rose 0.77 percent, or 44.4 points, to 5,842.1 after minutes from the Australian central bank’s latest meeting suggested it could cut rates again soon.

    Shanghai advanced 1.55 percent, or 53.54 points, to 3,502.85—its highest close since May 2008—and Seoul rallied 2.14 percent, or 42.58 points, to 2,029.91.

    However, Hong Kong gave up morning gains to end down 0.20 percent, or 48.06 points, at 23,901.49.

    Wall Street’s three main indexes charged higher Monday after news that US industrial production barely rose in February following two consecutive months of declines. The data was only pulled higher by heating demand during unusually cold weather.

    Also, manufacturing declined for the third straight month, by 0.2 percent, as automakers curbed output.

    The Dow surged 1.29 percent, the S&P 500 jumped 1.35 percent and the Nasdaq rallied 1.19 percent.

    The readings came as the Fed prepares to hold a two-day policy meeting starting Tuesday, which will be closely watched for clues about its timing for a rate increase.

    Expectations have been high for an increase as early as June after a strong jobs report at the start of the month, but they have been tempered by the latest figures, as well as data Friday showing falling producer prices.

    “Investors got back into their everything-bad-is-good groove” after the factory reports, said Tony Farnham, an analyst in Sydney at Patersons Securities Ltd, according to Bloomberg News.

    “There is still a general expectation that the Fed will remove the word ‘patient’ from its April rates decision commentary. This would deliver the Fed increased flexibility on the rates front, something that those investors desiring never-ending sugar fixes dread.”

    In foreign exchange markets the dollar was at 121.32 yen Tuesday, compared with 121.35 yen in New York late Monday.

    The euro, which hit a 12-year low Monday below $1.0500, bought $1.0604 against $1.0565 in US trade.

    The single currency also fetched 128.77 yen compared with 128.21 yen in New York.

    In oil trade, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate eased 42 cents to $43.46 and Brent fell 30 cents to $53.64.

    Gold fetched $1,154.54 against $1,156.82 on Monday.

    AFP

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