ECB rate cut cheers stocks, euro subdued

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 | Finance News

By Ian Chua

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sharemarkets across Asia mostly rose on Friday after an interest rate cut from the European Central Bank and prospects for more easing lifted hopes that fresh stimulus from yet another major central bank will help foster a stronger global recovery.

Trading, however, was subdued with Japanese financial markets closed for holidays and ahead of the closely-watched U.S. non-farm payrolls report due later in the day.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the ECB stood ready to ease further if needed, dealing a blow to the euro currency as investors looked elsewhere for better returns.

The euro, which skidded nearly 1 percent on Thursday, last traded at $1.3076, little changed on the day. Against the yen, it hovered just above 128.00, having retreated from a 3-year peak around 131.10 set last month.

The ECB's decision came a day after the Federal Reserve recommitted to its aggressive stimulus program and a month after the Bank of Japan stunned markets by promising to inject about $1.4 trillion into the economy to spur growth.

"The ECB's action comes as a sign governments are determined to tackle the economic issues. This points to further stimulus measures and it is positive for sentiment," said Lee Jae-hun, a market analyst at Mirae Asset Securities.

India's central bank is also widely expected to cut interest rates later in the day to help lift the economy from its slowest growth in a decade.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> rose 0.4 percent, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng index <.hsi> 0.7 percent higher and Chinese stocks <.csi300> up more about 2 percent.</.csi300></.hsi></.miapj0000pus>

Australia's main share index <.axjo> advanced 0.2 percent after Westpac became the latest major bank to handily beat expectations with a 10 percent jump in profit.</ .axjo>

Westpac shares jumped more than 2 percent at one stage, lifting its market value to A$107 billion, which is more than Barclays and Deutsche Bank combined. The share price has since reversed gains.

Singapore's Straits Times index <.ftsti> bucked the generally positive trend, slipping 0.7 percent.</.ftsti>

After a broad-based rebound on Thursday, commodity prices were mixed with U.S. crude drifting 0.2 percent lower at $93.82 per barrel. This followed a near 3-percent rally on Thursday.

Copper, however, extended gains and was nearing the $7,000-a-tonne price critical to market bulls. It rose 2.2 percent to 6,996.25, continuing to recoup a chunk of what it lost earlier in the week.

Markets appear to have shrugged off data showing China's services sector slowed in April, reinforcing views the recovery in the world's second biggest economy remains modest.

(Additional reporting by Jungyoun Park in Seoul; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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