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Asian stock markets rose strongly Monday, with benchmarks in Hong Kong and Shanghai gaining more than 3 percent, as Wall Street's rally and government stimulus plans buoyed investor hopes for 2009. European markets also opened higher.

Investors seemed encouraged after President-elect Barack Obama urged congressional leaders Saturday to move quickly on recovery measures that aides say could cost as much as $775 billion, including a reported $300 billion in possible tax cuts.

Also helping sentiment, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said over the weekend that Beijing would enact new measures to help the steel and auto industries. That comes on top of a massive stimulus package announced in November.

In a shortened half-day session, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock average gained 183.56 points, or 2.1 percent, to 9,043.12, its first finish above the 9,000-point line since Nov. 10.

In greater China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 3.5 percent to 15,563.31 and Shanghai's key index gained 3.3 percent to 1,880.72. Singapore's benchmark jumped 4.5 percent, with stock measures in Taiwan, India, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand higher as well.

Europe followed Asia higher, though gains were smaller. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent, Germany's DAX advanced 0.8 percent and France's CAC 40 added 0.4 percent.

The upbeat mood came after global markets rang in the new year with a strong advance despite more dismal economic news, including evidence that manufacturing in the U.S., Europe and China was deteriorating amid the slowdown.


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