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Asian stocks rise on hopes of US economic recovery
By PAMELA SAMPSON
Associated Press
2012-02-27 09:53 AM
Asian stock markets were mostly higher Monday as investors looked ahead to data releases that analysts say will likely show the U.S. economy improving at a slow but steady clip.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 percent to 9,698.99 and Hong Kong's Hang added 0.3 percent to 21,479.11. Benchmarks in mainland China and Singapore also rose. But South Korea's Kospi lost 1.2 percent to 1,995.12. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.6 percent to 4,279.80.

U.S. consumer confidence figures to be released Tuesday and the Federal Reserve's so-called Beige Book report on economic activity due Wednesday are likely to show improvement, analysts said.

Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email that "economic data over coming days will likely prove encouraging, with more signs of ongoing economic recovery in the US in particular."

On Wall Street on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average flitted above 13,000 for a second day last week before settling marginally lower at 12,982.95. The average hasn't closed above 13,000 since May 19, 2008. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,365.74. The Nasdaq composite index rose or 0.2 percent to 2,963.75.

U.S. stock indexes have been climbing since November as European officials redoubled their efforts to contain the region's debt crisis.

Greece on Friday made a formal offer to creditors to swap their Greek government bonds for new ones in another step toward knocking 107 billion euros ($142 billion) off its debts. The swap is part of a deal to prevent Greece from defaulting on a debt payment due next month.

The Greek Finance Ministry issued the formal offer to banks and other investment funds under which creditors are called on to accept losses of more than half the face value of the bonds they hold in return for new bonds with longer maturities.

Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 25 cents to $109.52 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose by $1.94 to finish at $109.77 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3452 from $1.3466 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.06 yen from 80.98 yen.

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