Asia Stocks Rise On Hopes Of New Fed Stimulus Move


BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ World stock markets were modestly higher Monday as sluggish U.S. growth boosted hopes for more measures from the Federal Reserve to help the world's No. 1 economy.

The Fed has already carried out two massive rounds of bond-buying known as quantitative easing to drive down long-term interest rates and stimulate spending and business investment. Low bond yields also encourage investors to shift money to stocks.

Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne said that investors shrugged off the weaker-than-expected U.S. economic growth figures released Friday, as well as a second downgrade this year by S&P of Spain's debt, amid hopes that the Fed will launch a new round of bond buying to keep interest rates low.

European stocks were mostly higher in early trading. Britain's FTSE rose 0.2 percent to 5,759.82 and Germany's DAX added 0.2 percent to 6,815.04. France's CAC-40 fell 0.6 percent to 3,246.79.

U.S. stocks were headed for a neutral opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures nearly unchanged at 13,168. S&P 500 futures were flat at 1,398.

Asian stocks were higher in trading thinned by holidays in Japan and mainland China. All major Asian markets except Tokyo will be closed for holidays on Tuesday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.7 percent to 21,094.21, with banking shares racking up solid gains.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 1,981.99 amid improving business sentiment among manufacturers. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8 percent to 4,396.60 as rising commodities prices helped push up its mining sector.

Benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and the Philippines also gained, while Singapore and Indonesia fell. Markets in mainland China and Japan were closed for public holidays.

Riskier assets such as stocks could lose momentum Tuesday, when China is due to release its manufacturing index for April. Shamu of IG Markets said analysts expect a reading of 53.6 for April, up from 53.1 in March. Anything lower could disappoint.

Traders are also awaiting U.S. monthly jobs figures for April, to be released Friday, and the second round of France's presidential election on Sunday.

Polls suggest the election will be won by Socialist contender Francois Hollande, who wants to renegotiate a European treaty intended to limit excessive government spending to emphasize growth over austerity. Economists fear Hollande could upset France's delicate cooperation with Germany, which has been critical to Europe's efforts to resolve its financial crisis.

U.S. stock markets rose Friday despite a report that the U.S. economy grew at annual rate of 2.2 percent, below the 2.5 percent that economist had expected. It grew at a faster rate, 3 percent, in the final three months of 2011.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 20 cents to $104.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 38 cents to settle at $104.93 in New York on Friday.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3239 from $1.3259 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 80.14 yen from 80.39 yen.


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