Asia shares mostly up, China data disappoints

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Hong Kong: Most Asia markets climbed Monday, with Hong Kong advancing for an eighth straight session and Shanghai rallying after another disappointing batch of Chinese data that will add to hopes for fresh easing measures.

Wall Street provided another strong lead, boosted by a string of merger announcements last week and a huge asset sale by General Electric (GE).

Hong Kong was up 0.41 percent — adding to the more than 11 percent gain seen over the past seven days — while Shanghai ticked 1.30 percent higher. Sydney added 0.20 percent and Seoul put on 0.12 percent, but Tokyo retreated 0.13 percent by lunch.

In China the customs administration said imports and exports sank in March, the latest figures to show the worlds number two economy continues to struggle. However, they will also reinforce investors expectations that authorities will unveil a new round of growth-fuelling policies.

Those expectations have powered a rally in Shanghai shares to seven-year highs over the past 12 months, and now mainlanders are jumping into Hong Kongs market looking for what they consider cheap equities. Hong Kongs Hang Seng Index has climbed more than 11 percent over the past seven sessions, and is on course for another rise Monday.

Turnover hit two successive records last week as traders north of the border make the most of a link-up between the index and Shanghais exchange.

While the stock connect programme was initially met with little interest, the decision by mainland authorities last month to expand the number of fund-management firms allowed to buy in Hong Kong has seen activity surge.

Attention will now turn to the release Wednesday of Chinese economic growth figures for the first three months of the year.

In New York the Dow got a bump from GEs announcement that it will sell $26.5 billion in real estate assets as part of a plan to pare off most of its GE Capital unit over the next 24 months. That came at the end of a week that also saw major mergers including Royal Dutch Shell and FedEx.

The Dow climbed 0.55 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.52 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.43 percent.

On currency markets the dollar was at 120.31 yen, compared with 120.30 yen in New York.

The euro bought $1.0590 and 127.41 yen against $1.0599 and 127.50 yen.

Oil prices edged higher. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for May delivery gained 28 cents to $51.92 while Brent crude for May rose 25 cents to $58.12.

Gold fetched $1,209.41 against $1,202.92 late Friday. (AFP)

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