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Asia: Markets rally after a punishing October

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[HONG KONG] Most Asian markets posted healthy gains on Thursday, tracking another rally on Wall Street, with Hong Kong and Shanghai leading the way following a Chinese pledge to support the world's number two economy

The healthy gains to kick off November come as dealers look to put behind them one of the worst months in recent years, which saw billions wiped from valuations and confidence battered.

While markets still face myriad problems, including rising US interest rates, the China-US trade war and uncertainty in the European Union, equities in Asia are enjoying a much-needed bounce.

Beijing provided the boost to Thursday's business, with the leadership saying it will introduce new measures to kickstart the stuttering economy following a string of weak data, including growth at its slowest pace in nine years during the third quarter.

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The yuan is also down at a 10-year low and approaching 7 to the dollar as uncertainty about China's economy leads investors to take their cash out of the country.

The Politburo, after a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping, said Wednesday in a statement: "The leadership is paying great attention to the problems, and will be more pre-emptive and take action in a timely manner."

It said it would press on with a prudent monetary policy and provide help to private businesses, reiterating Mr Xi's recent comments that the private sector would not be sidelined.

The statement comes almost two weeks after the country's top brass, including Mr Xi, embarked on a full-throated drive to shore up confidence in the country's stock markets and economy.

"Accepting slower growth has long been a challenge for Beijing, but now the rate of slowdown is firmly out of the comfort zone," Katrina Ell, an economist at Moody's Analytics in Sydney, said.

"In recent years the balancing act has been addressing risks in the financial system against pressure to stabilise economic growth. It appears the latter is again more of a priority."

RUPEE IN FOCUSĀ 

Shanghai jumped more than one per cent, while Hong Kong climbed 1.5 per cent and Sydney added 0.2 per cent, with Seoul 0.7 per cent higher. Singapore rallied one per cent, Wellington put on 0.6 per cent and Taipei 0.3 per cent.

However, Tokyo eased 0.8 per cent by the break on a stronger yen and profit-taking following a more than two percent surge Wednesday.

The broad advance came after all three main indexes on Wall Street chalked up a second day of solid gains.

In foreign exchanges the more optimistic tone helped high-yielding and emerging market currencies edge up.

The pound also managed to hold Wednesday's small gains, which came on the back of hopes for a breakthrough in Brexit talks.

However, Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at Oanda, said: "Despite the assurances from some politicians that a deal is very close, the probability of a no-deal exit has actually gone up (and) the market remains unconvinced given there have been few details on the actual agreement."

The Indian rupee will be in focus as speculation swirls that the country's central bank chief is preparing to leave over a row with the government, with reports saying Delhi had tried to influence policy.

Finance ministry officials have sought to calm the row, saying it respected the Reserve Bank of India's independence, which helped temper a drop in the rupee but the unit remains close to record lows touched earlier this month.

The government and the bank are believed to be at loggerheads over a number of issues including interest rates and how to respond to the plummeting rupee.

The rupee is hovering around 74 to the dollar, having started the year at 63.67.

AFP