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Asian stocks rise after Japan boost

Asian stock markets have risen as data showed the economy of earthquake-battered Japan shrank less than expected.

Oil prices hovered above 85 US dollars a barrel as investor worries began to ease after Wall Street closed in positive territory on Friday following a dizzying week of sharp gains and losses. The dollar rose against the yen but lost ground against the euro.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was 1.4% higher at 9,090.28 after the government announced that the economy had contracted at an annualised rate of 1.3% in the April-June quarter.

While that was the third straight quarter of contraction for the world's third-largest economy, it was better than the 2.6% fall forecast in a Kyodo News agency survey of analysts.

A modest weakening of the yen helped Japan's export sector. Toyota rose 2.4% while rival Honda was up 2.8%. Consumer electronics giant Sony rose 3.7%.

Video game maker Nintendo, meanwhile, soared 9.7% on media reports that the Tokyo Stock Exchange is considering acquiring the Osaka Securities Exchange. Such a merger would help companies listed on both exchanges by reducing costs. Osaka-listed Nintendo also hopes to become a component of the Nikkei 225 index, according to media reports.

Japan's economy was thrown into a tailspin on March 11 when a huge earthquake and tsunami wiped away much of the country's industrial north-east. Entire towns were washed away. Infrastructure, utilities and factories vital to production were destroyed.

Analysts at DBS Bank in Singapore said the smaller-than-expected contraction in Japan's economy was positive news spurred by the restoration of infrastructure, an improvement in sentiment and the release of pent-up demand.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shot up 2.8% to 20,169.86. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and mainland China were also higher. South Korea's market was closed for a public holiday.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 2.3% to 4,268.70. BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, gained 4.5%. Another mining giant, Rio Tinto, jumped 4.4%. Energy Resources of Australia was 4.7% higher.

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From Belfast Telegraph