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Asian Shares Rally As Investors Cheer U.S. Jobs Data


Asian stocks rose on Monday as geopolitical tensions eased, commodity prices advanced and the latest jobs report showed the U.S. economy added the biggest number of jobs in over 1-1/2 years in February. Wages have lagged behind the growth in employment, helping ease investor fears over a faster pace of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

Chinese stocks rose for a third day as easing trade-war fears helped lift material companies. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 19.16 points or 0.59 percent to 3,326.33 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index surged up 598.12 points or 1.9 percent to 31,594.33.

Japanese shares hit a 1-1/2-week high, although markets ended off their day's highs on worries that a suspected cronyism scandal involving the sale of state-owned land could hit Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's popularity.

Also, Japan's business survey index of large manufacturers weakened notably in the three months ended March, the quarterly survey by the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet Office showed, triggering some profit taking at higher levels.

The Nikkei average ended 354.83 points or 1.65 percent higher at 21,824.03, the highest closing level since Feb. 28, after reaching as high as 21,971.16 earlier in the day.

The broader Topix index rose 1.51 percent to 1,741.30, led by exporters, steelmakers and technology stocks. Canon, Panasonic, Sumco, Tokyo Electron, Nippon Steel and Japan Steel Works gained 2-3 percent.

Australian shares gained ground, led higher by financials and material stocks as the latest U.S. jobs report stoked optimism about global growth and base metal prices recovered on the back of news that Australia would be exempt from new U.S. trade tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose 32.90 points or 0.55 percent to 5,996.10 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended 0.53 percent higher at 6,101.40.

Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto jumped over 2 percent each while steel producer Bluescope Steel advanced 3.7 percent. The big four banks rose around half a percent each.

Oil Search, Santos, Origin Energy and Woodside Petroleum rallied 1-3 percent after crude oil prices gained more than 3 percent on Friday.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining tumbled 4.6 percent after a dam wall breach led to operations being suspended at its main mine.

Seoul stocks finished sharply higher as steel producers recovered from recent losses. The benchmark Kospi jumped 24.67 points or 1 percent to close at 2,484.12. Posco jumped 2.3 percent and Hyundai Steel advanced 2.4 percent.

New Zealand shares gained ground as investors braced for changes in key benchmark indexes due on Friday. The S&P/NZX-50 index climbed 73.98 points or 0.88 percent to finish at 8,463.99, while A2 Milk jumped 4.7 percent on expectations of its inclusion in the MSCI index.

Singapore's Straits Times index was rallying as much as 1.7 percent even as a government report showed the country's retail sales declined at a faster-than-expected pace in January.

Benchmark indexes in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were up between 0.8 percent and 1.6 percent.

U.S. stocks moved sharply higher on Friday amid easing geopolitical tensions and after the release of robust jobs data.

The Dow climbed 1.8 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.7 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 1.8 percent to extend gains for the sixth straight session and reach a record closing high.

The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs last month, beating forecasts, while wage growth came in below expectations and the jobless rate held steady at 4.1 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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