Stocks across the region felt the benefit with MSCI's index of
Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> up 0.8 percent,
bringing its gains to almost 6 percent in eight sessions.
Indonesia's market added 0.8 percent <.JKSE>, as did the Philippines
Several once-embattled Asian currencies all gained ground as
sentiment improved. The Indonesian rupiah did especially well with
the dollar down 4 percent in as many days and dealers reporting a
return of funds to many emerging markets.
The lower dollar in turn tends to be positive for commodities priced
in that currency, helping lift gold to a fresh three-month peak at
Even Japan's Nikkei <.N225> managed to shrug off a firmer yen and
soft domestic data to gain 0.4 percent. It had eased early as the
U.S. dollar lost a quarter of a yen to 101.58, while the euro made a
three-week peak at $1.3723.
The calmer mood was only briefly ruffled by data showing Japan's
economy grew just 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year,
compared to the previous quarter, confounding forecasts of a 0.7
The disappointing result will keep pressure on the Bank of Japan to
support the economy once an increase in the sales tax goes through
in April. The central bank's latest policy meeting ends on Tuesday
and the market will be keen to see what it makes of the growth
"We still have to see how much last-minute domestic demand ahead of
the sales tax hike boosts January-March GDP before pondering whether
extra fiscal and monetary stimuli are needed," said Junko Nishioka,
chief economist at RBS Securities in Tokyo.
In energy markets, Brent oil futures dipped 8 cents on Monday to
$109.00 a barrel, while U.S. crude firmed 18 cents to $100.48.
There was better news on China as data showed banks there disbursed
the highest volume of loans in any month in four years in January, a
surge that suggests the world's second-biggest economy may not be
cooling as much as some fear.
[to top of second column]
Chinese banks made 1.32 trillion yuan ($218 billion) worth of new
yuan loans in January, beating a 1.1 trillion yuan forecast and
nearly three times December's level.
It is usual for loans to spike in January, when banks try to lend as
much as they can to grab market share, but last month's surge was
still the largest since January 2010.
The next hurdle will be Thursday's HSBC flash PMI survey of
manufacturers for February, given that January's disappointing
result sent ripples through global markets.
The same day has a rash of flash PMIs for Europe and the United
States, along with U.S. inflation data.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 also
start their meeting in Sydney on Thursday. Events run through to
Sunday, when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, among
others, gives a news conference.
Minutes of the February policy meeting of the Federal Reserve are
due on Wednesday but are not expected to differ greatly from the
steady outlook offered by Fed Chair Janet Yellen last week.
Yellen still has to appear before the Senate after her testimony was
postponed due to bad weather, but no firm day has been set as yet.
(Editing by John Mair and Eric Meijer)
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