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Asian stocks begin week in stronger form

Sun, 10/16/2011 - 8:45pm
TOMOKO A. HOSAKA - Associated Press - Associated Press

Asian stock markets advanced Monday, bolstered by improved U.S. retail sales and Europe's renewed efforts to contain its debt crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 1.5 percent to 8,881.42, hitting a six-week intraday high at one point.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.7 percent to 18,824.07, South Korea's Kospi was up 1.2 percent at 18,824.07 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.8 percent to 4,282.30.

Sentiment brightened after stronger retail sales data in the U.S., leading to gains on Wall Street before the weekend. The Dow Jones Industrials rose 1.4 percent to close at 11,644.49 on Friday.

Retail sales, which are a key barometer of consumer spending, recorded the biggest gain in seven months in September and double what economists were expecting. The data added to signs that the world's biggest economy may avoid another recession.

Worries about Europe's debt problems also eased following a meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs over the weekend in Paris.

The group opened the door for the International Monetary Fund to play a bigger role in fighting the escalating debt troubles among countries that use the euro common currency. It also said eurozone ministers will "decisively address the current challenges through a comprehensive plan" to be unveiled on Oct. 23.

In currencies, the dollar edged up to 77.24 yen from 77.22 late Friday. The euro fell to $1.3851 from $1.3875.

With the dollar holding above the 77-yen line, investors sent Japanese exporters higher. Sony Corp. surged 4.6 percent, while Toyota Motor Corp. 2.4 percent.

Missing out on the rally was camera and precision instruments maker Olympus Corp., which plunged after firing its British CEO on Friday after just six months.

The issue tumbled more than 22 percent, following a double-digit slide before the weekend. Several ratings agencies issued downgrades, while media reports said Michael Woodford was dismissed after questioning Olympus executives about improper corporate governance and several acquisitions before he arrived.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was up 35 cents at $87.15 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.57 to settle at $86.80 in New York on Friday.

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