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Upbeat US Jobs Report Buoys Asian Stocks

By KAY JOHNSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Optimism that easy European and U.S. monetary policy will continue boosted Asian stock markets Friday as investors awaited a key American jobs report later in the day.

The prospect of continued monetary stimulus helped offset worries earlier in the week of a Chinese slowdown, European debt woes re-emerging and disruption of energy markets due to the military ouster of Egypt's president.

Hong Kong and Taiwanese stocks posted the biggest gains in morning trade and most other major indexes were in positive territory after the European Central Bank kept its policy interest rate at a record low to combat a persistent recession and its President Mario Draghi said the rate will remain there "for an extended period of time."

The European statement plus indications that the U.S. economy is growing â¿¿ but probably not fast enough for the U.S. Federal Reserve to rush into tapering off its purchases of $85 billion in bonds each month to keep interest rates low â¿¿ boosted markets that had been spooked in recent weeks at the prospect of such stimulus ending.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was up 1.3 percent to 14,194.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.4 percent to 20,753.62 and Taipei's TAIEX was up 1.4 percent to 8,003.77. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.7 percent to 4,829.10. Seoul's KOSPI was in negative territory, edging down 0.1 percent to 1,837.32.

The Asian gains followed a strong rally in Europe that was sparked by the ECB's statement and the Bank of England's announcement that speculation it would raise rates was unwarranted.

Britain's FTSE 100 index jumped 3.1 percent to close at 6,421.67 while Germany's DAX rose 2.1 percent to 7,994.31. France's CAC 40 gained 2.9 percent to 3,809.31. Wall Street was closed Thursday for the Independence Day holiday.

Investors were also waiting for a U.S. government jobs report due Friday. Earlier in the week, Wall Street rallied after ADP, a payrolls processor, said that businesses added more jobs last month than analysts had expected. If the U.S. government confirms that Friday, it offers hope that the American recovery is continuing.

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