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Asia markets up after US delivers positive data

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) -- Evidence of a steady economic recovery in the U.S. helped push Asian stock markets higher Monday.

A gauge of future economic activity issued Friday rose more than expected, a sign that the world's biggest economy is improving. Consumer confidence also rose, offsetting several lackluster reports on slowing manufacturing and an increase in applications for unemployment benefits.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.4 percent to 15,353.28. Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 1.7 percent to 23,478.62. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,990.05. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.2 percent to 5,242.20.

Investors will have a slew of data to sift through this week, including a key Chinese manufacturing report and homes sales and durable goods orders from the U.S. Analysts are somewhat pessimistic about the strength of China's recovery but are expecting to see solid improvement in the U.S.

"Although US data was mixed last week the recovery theme will continue this week, with housing data and durable goods orders set to record gains," Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a commentary.

Additionally, remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to members of Congress on Wednesday will be closely examined for hints about the central bank's future direction regarding its monetary policy.

Benchmarks in mainland China, Indonesia and New Zealand also rose, while those in Taiwan and the Philippines fell.

Wall Street stocks again pushed higher Friday after the Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent last month after a revised decline of 0.2 percent in March. The index is intended to predict how the economy will be doing in three to six months. Separately, the University of Michigan's preliminary survey of consumer confidence climbed to 83.7. Economists had predicted that the gauge would climb to 76.8.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8 percent to close at 15,354.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 1 percent, to 1,666.12. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1 percent to 3,498.97.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 10 cents at $95.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2835 from $1.2829 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 102.81 yen from 103.18 yen.


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