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Asian shares mostly up after Wall St gains

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Asian markets mostly rose Monday after Wall Street's three main indexes ended last week with their first gains in five sessions, while Hong Kong and Shanghai were boosted by hopes for more Chinese economic stimulus.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Monday after Wall Street's three main indexes ended last week with their first gains in five sessions, while Hong Kong and Shanghai were boosted by hopes for more Chinese economic stimulus.

The euro held its own against the dollar and yen at the beginning of a week of key events, including Greece's bailout reform proposals and the release of US jobs data, which will be pored over for clues about the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates.

Tokyo edged up 0.26 per cent, with investors brushing off news that Japanese factory output had fallen by more than expected in February.

Hong Kong added 0.99 per cent and Seoul gained 0.30 per cent while Shanghai advanced 0.66 per cent but Sydney sank 1.30 per cent, hit by falling commodity prices.

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Investors took their lead from counterparts in New York, where a four-day losing streak came to an end, despite figures showing the US economy grew at a slower pace than expected in the last three months of 2014.

The Commerce Department said growth came in at an annual rate of 2.2 per cent in October-December, less than the 2.4 per cent projected but unchanged from the prior estimate.

The Dow added 0.19 per cent, the S&P 500 rose 0.24 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.57 per cent.

Buying was also supported Monday by comments from the head of the People's Bank of China suggesting it could announce further monetary easing measures to boost the economy.

Zhou Xiaochuan told the Boao Forum for Asia "we need to be vigilant to see if the disinflation trend will continue, and if deflation will happen or not", according to Bloomberg News.

He added: "China can have room to act," both with interest rates and "quantitative" measures.

The bank has already cut interest rates twice since November and reduced the amount of cash lenders must keep in reserve.

Mr Zhou's comments come weeks after Premier Li Keqiang said the government had enough firepower to protect the economy if it continues to slow too quickly. Growth in 2014 came in at its slowest pace in almost a quarter of a century.

On currency markets the dollar was at 119.22 yen, compared with 119.14 yen in New York late Friday.

The euro bought $1.0878 and 129.70 yen against $1.0890 and 129.74 yen in US trade.

Traders are now waiting to see what sort of plan Greece's anti-austerity government puts forward to its creditors to reform its bailout terms.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he hoped talks with creditors would yield a "happy ending" as he looks to unblock a new 7.2 billion-euro tranche of crucial loans and avoid a debt default.

AFP

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