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Stocks hit 4-month highs, cheered by US data PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 May 2008

REUTERS, SINGAPORE - Asian stocks rose to their strongest in nearly four months on Monday and the dollar held on to most of last week's gains after jobs data suggested the US economic slowdown may not be as severe as investors had expected.

Commodities extended Friday's gains, with gold and grains WN8 up in early trade, while Treasuries were flat. Stock markets in Australia and Singapore both gained 0.6 percent, while Hong Kong .HSI was steady, but volumes were thin as Japan and Korea were closed for national holidays. UK markets are also shut on Monday.

By 0215 GMT, MSCI's measure of Asian stocks outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 0.3 percent at 499.4 after rising 1.7 percent on Friday. The benchmark jumped 8 percent last month, led by battered financials on expectations the global credit crisis may have reached a turning point.

The index is still down 6 percent this year. Global stocks as measured by MSCI .MIWD00000PUS gained 5.3 percent in April, its largest monthly gain since December 2003. US stocks ended higher on Friday after data showed

The world's largest economy shedding jobs at a slower pace than expected, easing concerns about the risk of a deep recession. The US shed lost 20,000 jobs last month, fewer than the 80,000 that economists had anticipated.

Still investor Warren Buffett, the world's richest person, however said on Sunday the US economy was in recession and banks would face more pain.

In Asian markets, shares in China's top e-commerce firm Ltd were high profile losers, down 5 percent after Microsoft Corp abandoned its bid to buy for Alibaba's major investor Yahoo Inc.

Microsoft's move could be positive for US stocks on Monday as it is expected to drive up the software company's heavily weighted shares. US RATE CUTS ALMOST OVER Markets will focus on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech on Monday on mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures.

The US dollar was a shade softer but held on to of most of last week's gains, supported by expectations the Federal Reserve will not need to cut interest rates again any time soon. "The drop in the unemployment rate has strengthened the market's conviction that the Fed is done," said Darren Gibbs, an economist at Deutsche Bank.

The Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark federal funds rate on April 30 by one-quarter point to 2 percent in what may be the last in a series of cuts aimed at aiding an economy hit by a housing slump and credit market turmoil.

Europe will be a major focus of investors' attention this week as the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England meet separately to discuss interest rates against a backdrop of declining economic strength.

"The bigger picture for forex markets remains that we think the ECB is being gradually forced by the data flow into accepting that interest rates need to come lower, while the Fed rate cutting cycle is in the end game," UBS forex strategist Ashley Davies said in a note.

In commodity markets, oil was little changed above $116 a barrel, pausing after jumping more than 3 percent last week, supported by further supply disruptions in Nigeria. US light crude for June delivery CLc1 was flat at $116.4 a barrel.

Gold rebounded on Monday as bargain hunters snapped up bullion after a fall to a four-month low last week, but trading was thin as Japanese markets were closed.

Gold rose to $861.10/864.10 an ounce from $855.80/857.00 an ounce late in New York on Friday, when it tumbled to $845 an ounce, its lowest since Jan 2, after the dollar jumped on better-than-expected US jobs data.

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