Asian shares ended mostly higher in holiday-thinned trading on Monday, as weak economic growth data from the world's largest economy fueled expectations for more monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve. The Fed gave no hint of more bond-buying last week but that didn't deter investors from speculating on the Fed's next move, given recent downbeat economic data and the uncertain economic outlook.
Hong Kong shares paced the gainers, with the benchmark Hang Seng index climbing 1.7 percent to its highest close since March 19, after Chinese banks reported robust earnings growth for 2011. The markets in mainland China and Japan were closed for public holidays.
Australian shares ended firm at a fresh eight-month high, as investors started pricing in fresh U.S. and European stimulus measures and a 25-basis point rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia tomorrow. Both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index rose around 0.8 percent each. Rising precious and industrial metal prices lifted BHP Billiton up 1.9 percent, while rival Rio Tinto rose 1.4 percent and gold miner Newcrest rallied 2.3 percent.
Lynas Corp gained 1.4 percent after the rare earths miner said construction of its processing plant in Malaysia is nearing completion. In the financial sector, NAB added 0.3 percent after announcing a restructuring of its U.K. business that will result in 1400 job losses. ANZ rose 1.1 percent, Commonwealth gained 0.7 percent and Westpac ended up 0.6 percent.
South Korea's Kospi average rose 0.3 percent as a slew of robust U.S. earnings and a good showing by some blue chip companies on the domestic front buoyed investor sentiment. Samsung Electronics, which saw its earnings hit a record high in the first quarter, rose 1.2 percent.
Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest automaker, which reported last week a 31 percent rise in its first-quarter earnings on strong sales in the U.S. and Europe, rose 3.1 percent while its affiliate Kia Motor ended up 3.4 percent. Shipbuilders recovered from their recent losses, with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Samsung Heavy Industries climbing 5-6 percent. The won rose against the dollar after data showed South Korean manufacturers' confidence rose to the highest level in nine months in May.
New Zealand shares rose, led by heavyweight Fletcher Building after data from Statistics New Zealand showed New Zealand residential building consents rose to their highest monthly level in two years in March amid growing demand for new housing in Auckland and Canterbury. Shares of the nation's largest construction company added a percent, while online auction site Trade Me jumped 2.6 percent to a record high after it entered into an agreement to buy the rest of vehicle listing aggregator AutoBase for $11.5 million. The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 0.7 percent to 3,556.
New Zealand Oil & Gas shares fell 1.3 percent following the release of its quarterly activities report. Whiteware manufacturer and exporter Fisher & Paykel Appliances tumbled 3.6 percent on concerns the strong kiwi dollar would erode the value of its offshore revenue.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was last trading up half a percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was rising 0.4 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite was up 0.2 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average added 0.3 percent, while Singapore's Straits Times slipped 0.3 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks edged higher on Friday, although buying interest was relatively subdued. Investors cheered upbeat earnings news from companies like Amazon.com as well as a better-than- expected reading on consumer sentiment in April, while a separate report from the Commerce Department showed somewhat weaker than expected economic growth in the first quarter. The Dow and the S&P 500 edged up 0.2 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.6 percent to post its best weekly gain in almost three months.
by RTT Staff Writer
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