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Asia: Most markets up after Wall St record, China growth stable

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[HONG KONG] Most Asian markets rose on Monday following another record close on Wall Street, while Shanghai stocks pared steep early losses as data showed China's economy grew more than expected in the second quarter.

Beijing said the world's number two economy expanded 6.9 per cent in April-June, beating forecasts in an AFP survey, and indicating it is stabilising after a years-long slowdown.

However, while the reading was the same as the previous three months officials warned of "uncertain factors abroad and long-term structural contradictions" at home.

The figures come as China tries to transition the economy from one driven by state investment to one powered by consumer spending, while leaders are also attempting to clamp down on bad debt that analysts fear could spark a financial crisis if not dealt with.

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Rob Subbaraman, chief economist for Asia ex-Japan at Nomura Holdings in Singapore, told Bloomberg News: "Fiscal stimulus remains an important driver of growth. It's also encouraging to see more signs of rebalancing with the pickup in retail sales growth."

Shanghai stocks plunged more than two per cent ahead of the release on worries about the government's drive to deal with the debt crisis, but they recovered partially afterwards and in mid-morning trade was down 0.9 per cent.

DOLLAR STRUGGLES

Most other regional investors built on last week's solid gains as they tracked the Dow and S&P 500's fresh highs that came on the back of below-par US inflation and retail sales.

The US readings missed forecasts and fuelled speculation the Federal Reserve's plans to lift interest rates further this year could be put on the back burner, sending equities up as borrowing costs look likely to remain low.

Hong Kong was up 0.4 per cent, Seoul gained 0.3 per cent and Singapore was 0.2 per cent higher while Wellington, Taipei and Manila all saw healthy rises. But Sydney was marginally lower.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

Lower expectations for a lift in US interest rates rattled the dollar on Friday and the unit struggled to bounce back against the pound, euro and yen in Asia.

The greenback was already under pressure after Fed boss Janet Yellen gave a more dovish outlook for future rises in interest rates, pointing to the bank's struggle to fire inflation.

"Persistently low inflation and soft retail sales in the US are raising legitimate concerns about whether the likely resting point for the Fed Fund Rate might be well below the three percent" that is forecast for the end of 2019, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

AFP

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