Asian shares mostly up after Wall St gains

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HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly rose on Monday after Wall Street’s gains at the end of last week, while Hong Kong and Shanghai were boosted by hopes for more Chinese economic stimulus.

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The euro edged down against the dollar and yen at the beginning of a week of key events, including Greece’s bailout reform proposals and the release of US jobs data, which will be pored over for clues about the Federal Reserve’s plans for interest rates.

Tokyo rose 0.65 percent, or 125.77 points, to 19,411.40, with investors brushing off news that Japanese factory output had fallen by more than expected in February.

Shanghai surged 2.59 percent, or 95.47 points, to 3,786.57 — its highest close since March 2008 — while Hong Kong finished up 1.51 percent, or 368.92 points, at 24,855.12.
Seoul ended 0.51 percent higher, adding 10.24 points to 2,030.04.

However, Sydney dropped 1.25 percent, or 73.8 points, to close at 5,846.1 owing to weak commodity prices.

Investors took their cue from New York, where a four-day losing streak came to an end Friday despite figures showing the US economy grew at a slower pace than some expected in the last three months of 2014.

The Commerce Department said growth came in at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in October-December, less than the 2.4 percent projected by analysts but unchanged from the prior estimate.

The Dow added 0.19 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.24 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.57 percent.

Asian buying was also supported Monday by comments from the head of the People’s Bank of China suggesting it could announce further monetary easing measures to boost the economy.

Deflation fears
Zhou Xiaochuan told the Boao Forum for Asia that “we need to be vigilant to see if the disinflation trend will continue, and if deflation will happen or not,” according to Bloomberg News.

He added that “China can have room to act,” both with interest rates and “quantitative” measures.

The bank has already cut interest rates twice since November and reduced the amount of cash lenders must keep in reserve.

Premier Li Keqiang has previously said the government had enough firepower to protect the economy if it continues to slow too quickly. Growth in 2014 came in at its slowest pace in almost a quarter of a century.

On currency markets the dollar was at 119.79 yen compared with 119.14 yen in New York late Friday.

The euro bought $1.0835 and 129.79 yen against $1.0890 and 129.74 yen in US trade.
Traders are now waiting to see what sort of plan Greece’s anti-austerity government puts forward to its creditors to reform its bailout terms.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he hoped talks with creditors would yield a “happy ending” as he looks to unblock a new 7.2 billion-euro ($7.8-billion) tranche of crucial loans and avoid a debt default.

The week ends with the release of US non-farm payrolls data. Another strong showing will likely refuel talk of an interest rate rise by the Fed.

Oil prices edged lower after sinking on Friday owing to easing concerns about the impact of the unrest in Yemen. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 84 cents to $48.03 and Brent eased 83 cents to $55.58 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched $1,185.40 against $1,198.77 late Friday.

AFP

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