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Japan, South Korea markets make gains as dollar rises

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Markets in Japan and South Korea rose Monday amid holiday-thinned trading in Asia after U.S. stocks gained on positive earnings to round out their best month since the end of last year. The dollar rose and oil prices extended declines after news of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.5 percent to 9,997.91. Asia’s largest market will be closed Tuesday through Thursday amid Japan’s annual Golden Week holiday. South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index, meanwhile, advanced 1.5 percent to 2,224.36.

In currencies, the dollar got a boost after news of bin Laden’s death. President Barack Obama announced that the mastermind behind the deadly Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States was killed in Pakistan in a U.S.-led operation.

The dollar rose to 81.53 yen from 81.10 yen. The euro, meanwhile, was marginally weaker at $1.4784 from $1.4839 late Friday in New York.

The greenback was bought on the belief that “terror risk will get smaller” for the United States after bin Laden’s death, said Yuji Kameoka, chief currency strategist at Daiwa Securities Capital Markets in Tokyo. He said that yen weakness and a decline in the price of crude oil were boosting Japanese stock prices.

Oil prices eased off 2 1/2-year highs to below $113 a barrel Monday after Obama announced bin Laden’s death.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was down $1.38 to $112.55 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $113.93 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday and reached $114.18 during in the session, the highest since September 2008.

Stock trading in Asia was thin amid a slew of holidays this week in the region. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index were closed for holidays as were stock markets in Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200, meanwhile, fell less than 0.1 percent to 4,823.60.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose Friday on positive earnings news after construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar reported strong first-quarter profit.

The Dow rose 47.23 points Friday, or 0.4 percent, to close at 12,810.54, rounding out April 4 percent higher, its best month since December.

Caterpillar, world’s largest maker of mining and construction equipment, rose 2.5 percent after its earnings increased more than fivefold. The company also raised its sales and profit forecast for the year.

Japan’s Komatsu Ltd., the world’s No. 2 equipment maker, rose 2.8 percent in Tokyo.

Broader indices in the U.S. also gained.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 3.13 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 1,363.61. The index gained 2.8 percent in April. The Nasdaq composite added 1.01 point to 2,873.54. It rose 3.3 percent for the month.
Source: AP

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