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Asia: Stocks climb after China rate cut

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Asian markets rallied on Monday after China's surprise move last week to cut interest rates for the first time in more than two years as leaders try to kickstart growth in the Asian economic giant.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets rallied on Monday after China's surprise move last week to cut interest rates for the first time in more than two years as leaders try to kickstart growth in the Asian economic giant.

The euro struggled in early exchanges following a sell-off Friday in response to comments from the head of the European Central Bank hinting at further stimulus measures to fight off deflation.

Hong Kong jumped 2.05 per cent and Shanghai rose 0.82 per cent, while Sydney gained 1.06 per cent and Seoul was 0.69 per cent higher.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

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China's central bank on Friday evening said it would slash its one-year rate for deposits by 25 basis points to 2.75 per cent, and its one-year lending rate by 40 basis points to 5.6 per cent, both effective Saturday.

The move - the first cut since July 2012 - followed a series of disappointing data out of the world's number two economy, a key driver of global growth.

Last week, banking giant HSBC said its index of manufacturing activity in China showed the sector had stagnated in November, while other data on trade and industrial output have also highlighted weakness.

"This provides confidence that growth won't fall below seven percent," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors.

"Some of the rally this year has been a removal of cheap valuations. The next leg of the rally will probably come from confidence that growth is not going to collapse," Oliver told Dow Jones Newswires.

US shares rallied on the news. The Dow climbed 0.51 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 0.52 per cent- both ending at new record highs - while the Nasdaq added 0.24 per cent.

Also providing buying support was a suggestion from ECB head Mario Draghi that he is ready to unload further stimulus to boost the flagging eurozone economy.

He told a banking congress Friday the ECB "will use all means available to us, within our mandate, to return inflation towards our objective - and without any undue delay".

Among the measures being considered are the large-scale purchase of government bonds - known as quantitative easing - similar to that undertaken by the Bank of Japan and recently wound down by the US Federal Reserve.

His comments come as the bank struggles to fend off deflation in the currency block, with inflation currently at just 0.4 per cent, well below the ECB target of 2.0 per cent.

Draghi's comments hit the euro. In early Asian trade Monday it was sitting at 145.72 yen and US$1.2383 compared with 147.60 yen and US$1.2544 Friday.

The dollar bought 117.67 yen against 117.64 in Tokyo Friday US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery was down seven cents to US$76.44 a barrel in mid-morning Asian trade, and Brent crude for January eased three cents to US$80.33.

Gold was at US$1,200.03 an ounce, compared with US$1,196.81 late Friday.

AFP

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