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Asian stocks surge, tracking US rally, as yen drops and energy shares climb

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[WELLINGTON] Asian stocks rose sharply as markets opened Wednesday (March 2), following a surge in US shares, as a weaker yen buoyed Japanese equities and energy companies advanced.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.6 per cent to 120.57 as of 9:01 am in Tokyo, with health-care and energy shares leading gains. The Asia Pacific gauge has jumped 6.7 per cent from this year's low on Feb 12.

Japan's Topix index added 1.9 per cent after the yen slid 1.2 per cent on Tuesday, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index posted its largest increase since January.

South Korea's Kospi index advanced 1.4 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 1.5 per cent. New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index climbed 0.2 per cent.

Futures on Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.9 per cent in most recent trading, while contracts on the Hang Seng Chain Enterprises Index and the FTSE China A50 Index each gained 1.3 per cent.

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Crude pared a rally on Wednesday after rising almost 5 per cent the previous two days.

"We are getting a bit of stability in markets," said Nader Naeimi, Sydney-based head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors Ltd, which oversees about US$115 billion.

"Most of the yen strength is behind us and most of the panic is behind us. People are underestimating just how much ammunition central banks have. US growth is slow but steady."

Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 0.1 per cent. The underlying equity measure jumped 2.4 per cent on Tuesday, while the Nasdaq 100 Index had its best day since August, as reports showed factory activity in February shrank less than forecast and spending on construction projects rose the most since May.

China said Monday it would reduce the amount of cash lenders must lock away in a bid to cushion a slowdown there. Its manufacturing data trailed estimates on Tuesday, reinforcing concern about the health of Asia's largest economy.

US presidential primaries move into focus today, with more delegates to be awarded than on any other day of the nomination race. Investors are also assessing economic releases to gauge the possible trajectory of interest-rate increases before the Federal Reserve's next decision on March 16, with the government's monthly jobs report due on March 4.


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