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Market Update

Asia Rallies On Europe Optimism

Asian markets notched higher Friday after central banks in Europe assured loose monetary policies would continue to be in place.

Leading the gains, Tokyo's Nikkei bounced 2.1%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.9%, Sydney's S&P/ASX All Ordinaries climbed 0.9% while mainland China's Shanghai Composite edged up 0.1%. Mumbai's Sensex also opened higher, following upbeat overseas cues, and was 0.4% higher at close.

President Mario Draghi of the ECB said yesterday that the central bank would keep key borrowing rates at current or lower levels for an "extended period". Draghi made this announcement while addressing a press conference on heels of the central bank's interest rate decision on Thursday. The ECB kept its monetary policy unchanged.

Separately, the Bank of England, which also concluded its monetary policy meeting yesterday, said that it would not hike interest rates over the short term.

Stocks on the Move

Tokyo-listed exporters scored robust gains as the dollar grew stronger against major currencies, including the yen.

Panasonic Corp., Sharp Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. rose around 2% to 3% as the softer yen boosted their earnings' outlook.

Financials, retailers and resources stocks further lifted the Nikkei stock exchange. Top brokerage house Nomura Holdings rose 2.5% while steel maker Kobe Steel bounced 7.6%. Retailer Fast Retailing rallied 5%.

In Hong Kong, metal players Aluminum Corp. of China, Jiangxi Copper and Angang Steel improved around 1.5% to 2.5%.

Other prominent scorers included financials and property stocks.

Developer China Resources Land gained 2% while Sino Land Company added 1.5%.

On the mainland, Shanghai-listed Poly Real Estate Group vaulted nearly 5% and Gemdale Corp. enhanced 2.3%. China Vanke rose 4.1% in Shenzhen.

Among banks, global banking giant HSBC Holdings plc. was up 2.8% while ICBC added 3%. China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China climbed around 2% each.

In Sydney, mining companies and banks led the rally. National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking tacked on a around percent each while ANZ added 0.5%.

Among miners, BHP Billiton gained 1.2% and Rio Tinto improved 1%.

Troubled surfwear retailer Billabong International extended gains, bouncing more than 15.5% today in its fourth straight session of double digit gains as investors continued to cheer news that U.S. hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management and Centerbridge Partners have acquired $280 million worth of the company's debt.

Mumbai-listed stocks tracked their Asian counterparts higher. Top gainers included Jindal Steel (up 3.5%), ONGC (+2.3%), Reliance Industries (+2.2%) and BHEL (+1.8%).

Hindustan Unilever rallied close to 1.5% after its parent company Unilever fell short of its public offer to raise its holding in the company to 75%. Unilever acquired a little over two-thirds of HUL after the close of a voluntary tender offer yesterday.