- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

HONG KONG (AP) - Asian stocks posted more solid gains Monday, with Hong Kong’s index up over 3 percent, as a global market rally entered its fifth straight week amid hopes the worst of the world economic crisis is over.

The advance came after Wall Street ended higher Friday to log its fourth consecutive week of gains. Most sectors climbed across Asia, with Japanese exporters like Panasonic and Nissan especially strong after the dollar headed above 100 yen for the first time in months. European banking giant HSBC jumped after raising billions in capital.

Investors, determined to see the bright side of even the most dismal news of late, appeared more relieved than spooked by the most recent economic data.

Friday’s U.S. unemployment report showed employers slashed a net total of 663,000 jobs last month while the employment rate jumped to 8.5 percent _ the highest in 25 years. The figures were only slightly worse than expected.

Adding to investor optimism were comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the central bank’s strategy to ease America’s financial crisis through billions of dollars in aid and other measures was starting to pay off.

But analysts warned the market was being driven higher with the help of big institutional investors who were forced to return to the market after sitting out the start of the year. Anxiety about missing out on the rally has also spurred “panicky buying” by some investors.

“There’s no doubt that there’s been some improvement in the global outlook, but not enough to justify what’s going on in the markets,” said Tim Rocks, Asia strategist at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong

“Many people have been buying out of fear rather than conviction, and eventually the true degree of the difficulties the world is facing will reassert itself and markets will go back down,” he said.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average added 68.99 points, or 0.8 percent, to 8,818.65, while Hong Kong Hang Seng traded higher by 494, or 3.4 percent, at 15,039.69 to lead the region. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1.2 percent to 1,298.29.

Elsewhere, India’s Sensex climbed 1.7 percent, Australia’s key index was up 0.6 percent and Singapore’s stock measure rose almost 2 percent. Markets in mainland China, Thailand and the Philippines were closed for holidays.

In New York Friday, the Dow climbed 39.51, or 0.5 percent, to 8,017.59 _ the index’s highest close since Feb. 9. It’s now 22.5 percent above its March trough and in the middle of its biggest four-week rally since 1933.

Broader measures also gained, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index up 8.12, or 1 percent, to 842.50.

Wall Street’s rally showed few signs of easing as U.S. futures gained. Dow futures were up 30 points, or 0.4 percent, at 8,013 and S&P500; futures gained 3.5, or 0.4 percent, to 844.10.

Oil prices rose above $53 a barrel Monday in Asia as investors looked to U.S. corporate earnings reports this week for signs of economic recovery that could sustain crude’s two-month rally. Benchmark crude for May delivery rose 99 cents to $53.49 a barrel. The contract fell 13 cents on Friday to settle at $52.51.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 100.76 yen from 100.29 yen. The euro traded up at $1.3563.

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