Asian shares rise on hopes for US stimulus package

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People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Monday, March 1, 2021. Asian shares were higher on Monday on hopes for President Joe Bidens stimulus package and bargain-hunting buying after the shares fall last week. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO – Asian shares rose Monday on hopes for President Joe Biden's stimulus package and bargain-hunting after sell offs last week.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 2.2% in morning trading to 29,587.82. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.5% to 6,774.00.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.9% to 29,253.72, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.6% to 3,529.98 despite a survey showing slightly weaker manufacturing indicators for the month of February.

South Korean markets were closed for a national holiday. But the government reported that exports rose 9.5% in February from a year earlier and imports jumped nearly 14%, in signs the economy is picking up momentum.

A manufacturing survey for Japan showed an expansion in February for the first time since April 2019. The au Jibun purchasing managers index reading of 51.4 — on a scale of 1-100, where 50 and above show expansion — was a sharp improvement from the 49.8 level registered in January.

The survey showed improvements in many areas including higher sales and orders and higher exports, reflecting improved demand in overseas markets, especially China.

Asia's export-reliant economies are counting on a healthy American economy to boost trade, which has tended to stagnate during the pandemic. As the region's recovery begins to take off, vaccine rollouts are also gradually getting started in most Asian nations.

Worries about the economy, as well as about COVID-19, are still relatively widespread in Japan, which is seeing yet another wave of coronavirus cases. Some urban areas, like Osaka, have lifted measures to help prevent the spread of infections, but the Tokyo area remains under a “state of emergency,” focused on having restaurants, bars and other businesses close at 8 p.m. Japan has never had a lockdown.