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Asian shares rise on US rally, jobs data signaling low rates

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Asian shares opened the week mostly higher, cheered by a rally on Wall Street as a grim jobs report signaled to investors that interest rates will likely stay low

TOKYO — Asian shares mostly rose Monday, cheered by a rally on Wall Street as a grim jobs report signaled to investors that interest rates will likely stay low.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.6% in afternoon trading to 29,518.34. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.3% to 7,172.80. South Korea’s Kospi added 1.7% to 3,252.01. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged down 0.3% to 28,527.52, while the Shanghai Composite fell nearly 0.1% to 3,416.19.

The regional gains are coming despite a recent surge in coronavirus infections in Asia.

“In Asia, incoming economic releases may contain the long shadow of renewed resurgence of COVID,” said Venkateswaran Lavanya, of the Asia & Oceania Treasury Department in Mizuho Bank’s Singapre branch.

In Japan, worries are growing about tens of thousands of athletes and officials entering the country for the Tokyo Olympics, set to open in July. Many will be from countries where people have been vaccinated, while the rollout has been extremely slow in Japan, with about 3% of the population inoculated so far. The Tokyo Olympics organizers are promising stringent measures to prevent clusters and testing the athletes and officials regularly for infections.

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Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist for IG in Singapore, said investors are watching for inflation and retail sales data out of the U.S. and for British economic growth data.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.7% to 4,232.60, its third straight gain, and topping the previous all-time high set last month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.7% to 34,777.76, setting a record high for the third straight day. The Nasdaq composite picked up 0.9%, to 13,752.24.

Small company stocks also got a solid bump. The Russell 2000 index outgained the major stock indexes, climbing 1.4% to 2,271.63.

The economy is regaining momentum as the rate of coronavirus vaccinations rises but Friday’s U.S. jobs report was a massive disappointment. The market’s most anticipated economic data of each month, it showed employers added just 266,000 jobs in April. That was far fewer than the 975,000 jobs that economists expected and a steep slowdown from March’s hiring pace of 770,000.

The weak jobs number bolsters the case for the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low.

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Recent relatively strong global earnings reports have lifted share prices. Among companies reporting earnings later this week are Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 59 cents to $65.49 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 19 cents to $64.90 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 67 cents to $68.95 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 108.92 Japanese yen from 108.59 yen late Friday. The euro weakened to $1.2158 from $1.2167.

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