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Asia stocks gain amid modest Nikkei recovery

Monday - 5/27/2013, 11:40pm  ET

A youth walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo Monday, May 27, 2013. The Nikkei 225 closed down 469.80 points, or 3.22 percent at 14,142.65 Monday after the yen reversed some of its recent fall against the U.S. dollar. Stocks elsewhere in Asia were mixed as investors tried to sort out conflicting indicators about the health of the global economy. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

PAMELA SAMPSON
AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) -- Investors seeking bargains helped push Japan's benchmark stock index higher Tuesday after plunging 3 percent the day before. Other Asian markets registered relief with slight gains.

The Nikkei has been on a rollercoaster ride since last Thursday, when it plummeted more than 7 percent after interest rates on the country's benchmark 10-year bond spiked to above 1 percent for the first time in a year. The swing in Japanese bonds unnerved investors at a time when Japan's already overburdened government finances are vulnerable to rises in interest rates.

Overall, however, the index has soared 37 percent this year, a show of investor support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his aggressive policies aimed at reversing years of economic malaise and deflation.

The Nikkei 225 index rose 0.6 percent to 14,223.39 as the yen slipped against the dollar. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to 22,711.20. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.3 percent to 1,986.56. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.1 percent to 4,966.50.

In European trading Monday, both Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 closed higher. European Central Bank board member Joerg Asmussen pledged in a speech in Berlin that the bank would continue to pursue easy monetary policy "as long as necessary" due to the region's recession.

Stocks in the U.S. and Britain were closed Monday for public holidays.

Traders were awaiting the release of U.S. economic data later Tuesday including the consumer confidence index for May and home prices.

The data will be scrutinized for how it might influence the Federal Reserve. The Fed is undertaking its third round of aggressive bond-buying to help the economy. However, speculation that the U.S. central bank might scale back the program based on a recent improvement in some economic indicators has sparked jitters.

"Consumer confidence data today will highlight the ongoing improvement in sentiment driven by both equity and housing wealth gains. In the debate about early Fed tapering the confidence data will err on the side reducing Fed asset purchases sooner rather than later," Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

Hopes for a global economic recovery were undermined last week when a survey on China's monthly manufacturing showed a disappointing decline. Less-than-clear indications from the U.S. Federal Reserve on whether it might scale back its aggressive bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, also caused investors to curb their enthusiasm.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 45 cents to $93.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 10 cents to close at $94.15 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2897 from $1.2934 late Monday in Europe. The dollar rose to 101.87 yen from 100.99.

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