Asian Stock Markets Extend Gains

Tokyo up 2.5 percent

Asian stock markets rose again Tuesday, buoyed by further signs of easing in credit markets and support by the chairman of the U.S. central bank for more measures to aid the country's troubled economy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index climbed 2.46 percent to 9,226.70, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ticked up about 0.1 percent to 15,331.34.

Stock markets in Singapore, Australia, mainland China and Thailand also gained.

Market sentiment was helped by an overnight surge on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average rose 413.21, or 4.67 percent, to 9,265.43.

Investors were relieved by a further slackening in bank-to-bank lending rates in light of moves by governments around the world to increase liquidity and get money flowing again among companies.

Adding to the sense of optimism were fresh measures to boost Asian economies on Monday: India's central bank unexpectedly cut the nation's key lending rate by one percentage point and China signaled more government intervention to spur lending and stabilize the country's volatile financial markets.

Momentum was also building in the U.S. for more economic aid after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday that further steps might help ease the country's economic weakness. He also warned there was "some risk of a protracted slowdown."

"In all we're in a better place and conditions are better than two weeks ago," said Khiem Do, a Hong Kong-based fund manager who helps oversee about US$8 billion of Asian equities at Baring Asset Management.

"The measures have pacified investor panic as far as the banking system is concerned. You have monetary easing in a number of countries. And you have a market that was oversold and started to offer very attractive valuations."

South Korea's market was left out of the regional advance. The Kospi traded down about 1 percent amid lingering concerns about the economy despite government measures to commit $130 billion to bail out the country's financial system.

In oil, crude prices climbed 90 cents to $75.15 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as investors expected OPEC to try to halt a three-month slide in prices by cutting production quotas at least 1 million barrels a day. The contract gained overnight US$2.40 to settle at $74.25.

The greenback fell against the yen to 101.62 and was little changed against the euro.

In Hong Kong, the interbank offered rate for three-month loans continued to slide, falling from 3.66 percent to 3.35 as credit markets loosened up around the world.

Overnight in London, the interbank lending rate for three-month dollar loans fell for the sixth day running Monday and by its biggest daily amount since January.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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