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Asia stocks rise as US jobs picture improves
Asian stock markets rise on stronger-than-expected US hiring figures
By The Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) Asian stock markets rose sharply in early trading Monday, boosted by stronger-than-expected U.S. hiring figures for July following three months of weak job gains.

A weekend statement by the People's Bank of China indicating it would intensify policy fine-tuning also helped investment sentiment by raising hopes for more monetary easing, analysts said.

"It seems that policy focus in China has indeed shifted quite dramatically towards supporting growth," Dariusz Kowalczyk at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.8 percent to 8,706.85 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 2.1 percent to 20,071.95. South Korea's Kospi added 2 percent to 1,885.69 and Australia's S&P ASX/200 was 1.3 percent higher at 4,257.30. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines also rose.

Stocks finished sharply higher on Wall Street on Friday after the government said the U.S. added 163,000 jobs last month, a turnaround following three months of sluggish hiring. Between April and June, the economy added an average of just 75,000 jobs a month compared with 226,000 jobs per month in the first three months of the year. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.7 percent to close at 13,096.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 1.9 percent to 1,390.99. The Nasdaq composite index rose 2 percent to 2,967.90.

Still, recent job gains weren't enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which rose to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June.

On Friday, Asian stock markets fell after the European Central Bank's policy meeting failed to deliver on bold promises of action to overcome the region's prolonged debt crisis. Investors had hoped the ECB would resume purchases of government bonds to lower the borrowing costs of financially struggling countries such as Spain and announce other measures to calm a crisis that is dragging down global economic growth.

But Germany, which is Europe's biggest economy, is opposed to the ECB operating outside its mandate to control inflation and wants any government bond purchases to be financed by other funds set up to deal with the crisis.

Benchmark crude was down 18 cents at $91.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $4.27 on Friday to settle at $91.40 in New York. In London, Brent crude was down 53 cents at $108.41 on the ICE Futures exchange.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2403 from $1.2377 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.35 yen from 78.59 yen.

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