Asia stocks rise on hopes of new Fed stimulus move

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Asian stock markets rose Monday in holiday-thinned trade as sluggish U.S. growth figures boosted hopes for more measures from the Federal Reserve to help the world's No. 1 economy.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,980.27 amid improving business sentiment among manufacturers. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.7 percent to 4,393.30 as rising commodities prices helped push up its mining sector.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.1 percent to 20,962.34. Benchmarks in New Zealand, and the Philippines also gained, while Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia fell. Markets in mainland China and Japan were closed for public holidays.

Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne said that investors shrugged off the weaker-than-expected U.S. economic growth, as well as a second downgrade this year by S&P of Spain's debt, amid hopes that the Fed will launch a new round of bond buying to keep interest rates low.

The Fed has already carried out two rounds of bond-buying known as quantitative easing to stimulate spending and drive down long-term interest rates. Low bond yields generally encourage investors to shift money to buying stocks.

Confidence among South Korean manufacturers rose amid signs of an improving economy, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Bank of Korea. An index that measures expectations among manufacturers rose to 90 for May from 85 in April, the central bank said.

Samsung Electronics, which on Friday announced record earnings for the first quarter, rose 2.2 percent. Hyundai Motor Co. added 2.3 percent.

Elsewhere, rising prices for precious and industrial metals helped Australia's mining giants. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company, rose 1.6 percent. Leading rival Rio Tinto Ltd. added 1.2 percent, and iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group rose 0.9 percent.

U.S. stock markets rose Friday despite a report that the U.S. economy grew at annual rate of 2.2 percent, below the 2.5 percent that economist had expected. It grew at a faster rate, 3 percent, in the final three months of 2011.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 21 cents to $104.72 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 38 cents to settle at $104.93 in New York on Friday.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3240 from $1.3259 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 80.13 yen from 80.39 yen.


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