The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended higher on Monday, unfazed by the rocket launch by North Korea on Sunday, extending the gains for the fifth consecutive week, on increasing optimism that the worst of the global economic crisis is over and the initiatives of the governments will yield positive results in the near term.

Positive comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also lifted the sentiment across the markets.

Bernanke, while speaking at Charlotte on Friday, said that the Federal Reserve will use all possible tools at its disposal to help the U.S economy come out of the recession. While not offering any timeline for recovery of the U.S economy, Bernanke stated that the initiatives are beginning to yield positive results. He pointed out the increase in refinance activities and drop in mortgage rates as examples of response for the Fed initiatives.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in an interview to the CBS Program Face the Nation, said that there were encouraging signs that the recession-hit U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery. He also added that it was too early to say if he was going to ask Congress for more stimulus money as the economic stimulus package announced so far slowly makes it mark in the economy. He said the government stands ready to force out banking bosses and install new management if their companies have to return for more bailout money.

On Friday, the Dow closed up 39.51 points or 0.5% at 8,018, the Nasdaq closed up 19.24 points or 1.2% at 1,622 and the S&P 500 closed up 8.12 points or 1% at 842.

In Asian trading, crude oil gained 1.79%, or $0.94, at $53.45 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed down $0.18 at $52.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday after dismal employment report fueled concerns over energy demand.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index gained 1.02% or 108.09 points to close at 8,886. However, the broader Topix index of all First Section Issues pared gains and shed 0.39 points or 0.01% to close at 831.

A report in the Nikkei newspaper on Saturday stated that the government will subsidize purchases of eco-friendly vehicles such as hybrids, also attracted buying interest among the automakers. Among the automakers, Toyota advanced 1.08% and Isuzu Motors rose 8.59%. However Honda edged down 1.26%.

Exporters advanced on weaker yen. Canon gained 1.63%, Sony added 1.04% and Sharp rose 4.68%. However, Trading houses slipped on profit taking, Mitsubishi Corp. lost 0.61%, Sumitomo Corp. edged down 0.11% and Itochu fell 1.14%.

Oil stocks ended higher. Inpex advanced 4.92%, Showa Shell gained 2.19% and Nippon Oil edged up 0.92%.

Banks stocks pared back most of their early gains and ended mixed in reaction to the report that forecast losses for the year. Mitsubishi UFJ lost 2.47%, Mizuho Financial edged down 0.49%, and Sumitomo Mitsui declined 1.37%. However, Resona Holdings bucked trend and edged up 0.45%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings fell 0.85%.

In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 21 points or 0.56% to close at 3,757 and the broader All Ordinaries index added 22.40 points, or 0.61% to 3,696.

On the economic front, a report showed that the TD Securities-Melbourne Institute inflation gauge fell 0.1% in March, while the annual rate rose by 2.6%.

A survey by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed that the total number of job advertisements fell 8.5% in March from the month before, to average 147,804 a week.

Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 2.11%, National Australia Bank advanced 3.33%, Westpac moved up 1.47%, and investment bank Macquarie Group rose 5.26%. However, ANZ Banking Group bucked the trend and lost 1.15%.

In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton lost 1.73%, and Rio Tinto fell 2.15%. Gold-related stocks ended lower following drop in gold prices. Lihir Gold dropped 6.13%, Newcrest Mining shed 5.10%, and Sino Gold fell 4.55%.

Among energy stocks, Oil Search gained 4.16%, while Woodside slipped 0.33% and Santos lost 1.09%.

Retail stocks ended mixed. While David Jones gained 2.11%, and Woolworths advanced 1.33%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers declined 1.29%.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index advanced 3.11% or 452.35 points to close at 14,998.04.

Property stocks, financials, resources and china-related stocks led the gains.

Among property stocks, Henderson Land advanced 2.79%, Wharf Holdings gained 3.05%, SHK Properties rose 3.63%, New World Development soared 7.64% and Swire Pacific added 6.18%.

Financial stocks ended higher. HSBC Holdings gained 5.26%, Bank of China advanced 2.29%, Bank of Communications added 3.63%, ICBC rose 2.95% and Bank of East Asia moved up 3.46%.

Insurance stocks also advanced. Ping An gained 2.03% and China Life advanced 3.17%.

Among the resource stocks, Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, surged 6.18%, CNOOC gained 1.68% and PetroChina rose 3.63%

China-related stocks, however, ended mixed on profit taking. While China Resources gained 1.71%, China Mercantile Holdings lost 0.99% and China Overseas edged down 0.30%.

In Seoul, the benchmark KOSPI Index gained 1.10% or 14.10 points to close at 1,298. Profit taking at higher levels pared some of the gains during the trading session.

Among technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor soared 12.30% and LG Display advanced 2.97%, while LG Electronics lost 1.52% on profit taking. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics edged up 0.17%.

Among the automakers, Hyundai Motor gained 0.98% and Ssangyong Motor rose 2.72%, while Kia Motor edged down 0.52%.

Financials are also trading higher. KB Financial Group added 0.26%, Shinhan Financial gained 2.94% and Woori Finance advanced 4.72%.

Among Oil-related stocks, SK Holdings moved up 0.42% while S-Oil remained unchanged from previous close.

Shipbuilders are advancing. Hyundai Heavy Industries advanced 3.55%, Samsung Heavy Industries gained 3.33%, and Daewoo Shipping rose 4.04%.

Among the other major markets, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index advanced 1.09% or 16.28 points to 1,517, Singapore's Strait Times Index gained 27.11 points or 1.49% to 1,848, and Taiwan's Weighted Index ended at 5,556, up 0.48% or 26.59 points. Markets in China are closed for public holiday.

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