Asian Stocks Rise on US, Japan Stimulus Hopes

Asian stocks rose strongly Monday ahead of a U.S. announcement to buy up as much as $1 trillion in toxic bank assets and as Japan signaled more stimulus measures to resuscitate the world's second-largest economy.

Tokyo shares led the region's gains, with the country's benchmark hitting a six-week high, after Japan's finance minister said aggressive public spending to the tune 20 trillion yen ($208 billion) might be needed to end the country's painful recession.

Investors also were eyeing the U.S., where the Obama administration is set to unveil Monday its latest effort to heal the hard-hit financial sector and restore bank and consumer lending. The government is expected to create a new government entity, the Public-Private Investment Program, to clear from bank balance sheets up to $1 trillion in souring securities and loans at the root of the global financial crisis.

With Monday's strong showing, Asian markets were regaining their momentum after pausing from a global rally spurred by easing concerns about the financial system and better-than-expected economic data in recent weeks.

"It's becoming difficult to remain bearish," said Desmond Tjiang, chief investment officer, who helps manage $3 billion in Asian equities at Fortis Investment Management in Hong Kong. "The governments have definitely helped ... and people are still hoping for a second-half recovery."

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average advanced 235.62 points, or 3 percent, to 8,181.58, with the weakening yen further boosting sentiment. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 363.12, or 2.8 percent, 13,196.63, and South Korea's Kospi climbed 2.3 percent to 1,197.78.

Shanghai's key stock index added 1.2 percent. Markets in Australia and Taiwan gained more than 2 percent.

Friday in New York, Wall Street's took breather without any significant news to reinforce its recent rally. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 122.42, or 1.7 percent, to 7,278.38. Broader stock indicators also lost ground, with the Standard & Poor's 500 off 15.50, or 2 percent, to 768.54.

U.S. futures were boosted by Monday's pending announcement about the government's bank plan. Dow futures were up 43 points, or 0.6 percent, to 7,454, while S&P 500 futures were up 11.3 points, or 1.5 percent, to 775.4.

Oil prices were higher in Asian trade, with benchmark crude for May delivery up 55 cents at $52.62. The contract inched up 3 cents to settle at $52.07 on Friday.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 96.23 yen from 95.95 yen late Friday. The euro was higher at $1.3667 from $1.3582.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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