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Asia: Markets rise after China rate cut, US data

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Monday after China at the weekend cut interest rates for the second time since November, while better-than-forecast US economic data helped push the dollar up against the yen.

Several key events will also be taking investors' attention this week, including a meeting of China's Communist Party, the European Central Bank and the release of US jobs figures.

Hong Kong added 0.70 per cent, Shanghai gained 0.68 per cent, Tokyo climbed 0.26 per cent by the break, Sydney put on 0.71 per cent and Seoul was 0.33 per cent higher.

The People's Bank of China on Saturday cut interest rates by 25 basis points, citing "historically low inflation" among the factors behind its decision.

The move is the latest by authorities aimed at helping the economy regain its lustre after it grew in 2014 at its slowest pace since 1990. This month the PBoC also cut the percentage of funds banks must hold in reserve, known as the reserve requirement ratio, to try to boost lending.

It also comes just ahead of the start Thursday of the annual meeting of China's rubber-stamp legislature, the National People's Congress, at which Premier Li Keqiang is expected to deliver an address on the state of the economy.

Saturday's announcement was followed the next day by official data showing the country's manufacturing sector shrank for a second straight month in February.

Buying was also helped by news that the US economy grew 2.2 per cent in the last quarter of 2014, slower than the 2.6 per cent first estimated but not as slow as the 2.1 per cent forecast.

The news lifted the dollar, which bought 119.82 yen in Tokyo Monday, against 119.63 yen in New York and well up from 119.17 yen in Tokyo earlier Friday.

The euro bought US$1.1167 and 133.83 yen, compared with US$1.1195 and 133.93 yen in US trade.

However, Wall Street's main indexes still retreated.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.30 per cent Friday but still managed to record its best month since October 2011, putting on 5.5 per cent. The Dow eased 0.45 per cent and the Nasdaq fell 0.49 per cent Oil retreated after enjoying steep gains Friday, with some analysts suggesting prices have bottomed out after hitting six-year lows in January.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery fell 44 cents to US$49.32 while Brent crude for April was down 49 cents to US$62.09.

Gold fetched US$1,218.15 against US$1,206.45 late Friday.

AFP