Asian markets are trading firm on Monday despite none too encouraging cues from Wall Street, where stocks had moved in a highly choppy fashion amid thin volumes on Friday. Though concerns over the impact of avian flu on the U.S. and major economies continue to weigh in, participants across global markets appear to be betting on hopes the damage may not be severe as feared earlier.

Among major markets across the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is closed today for a National Holiday. The Australian market is trading firm with its benchmark S&P/ASX 200 gaining 90 points to 3,860. The All Ordinaries index is trading at 3,818, up by around 80 points or 2.1%. New Zealand's NZX 50 is up 27 points or nearly a per cent at 2,746.50.

The Taiwan Weighted index is up 5.6% or 334 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng is trading up 463 points or 3% at 15,983. The benchmark indices of Shanghai, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore are trading higher by 2% to 3%.

In the Australian stock market, energy, materials and financial stocks are attracting heavy buying today. Healthcare, industrials, consumer staple and utility stocks are also trading firm with strong gains.

Bank stocks are in the limelight in the Korean market. Key bank stocks Shinhan Financial Group, Woori Finance and KB Financial are up 8% - 12% now. Korea Exchange Bank is trading with a gain of 4.6%.

Market heavyweight Hynix Semiconductor has rebounded after a weak start and is trading with a sharp gain of 3.5% now. Shipbuilders Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries are up 7% and 3.8% respectively. Daewoo Shipbuilding is up 4.2% over its previous close. Airlines and steel makers are also in demand. Automobile stocks have recovered after a somewhat subdued start and are trading with sharp gains now.

In currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at 0.7372 to the U.S. dollar. The Yen is trading at 99.46 to the U.S. dollar and the New Zealand dollar is at 0.5746 to the greenback.

Most of the major markets in both the Asia-Pacific region and Europe were closed on Friday for May Day holidays. Nonetheless, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 1.7 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed nearly flat.

On Friday, Wall Street ended with modest gains after a highly choppy ride amid low volumes. While higher natural gas and crude oil prices lifted energy stocks, banks were seen struggling on hearing that results of government's bank stress tests won't be released until May 7.

Chevron closed notably higher after the oil giant reported first-quarter earnings that fell sharply year-over-year but came in better than analysts had expected. Chevron reported first quarter earnings of $1.84 billion or $0.92 per share compared to $5.17 billion or $2.48 per share in the year-ago quarter. Analysts had been expecting the company to report earnings of $0.81 per share.

MetLife saw considerable weakness after reporting a first-quarter loss of $574 million or $0.71 per share compared with a profit of $615 million or $0.84 per share in the same quarter last year.

In an interview with RTT News, Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor's Equity Research suggested that investors turn a deaf ear to the old adage sell in May and go away this year.

Stovall pointed to the fact that since 1932, the market has gained an average of 12.2 percent in the May to October period following bear market bottoms.

In economic news, factory orders fell 0.9%, worse than the 0.6% decline that was expected, and February orders were revised lower to reflect an increase of 0.7%.

The Institute for Supply Management released its report on manufacturing activity in the month of April, showing that activity continued to contract for the month but at a much slower than expected pace.

The ISM said its index of activity in the sector rose to 40.1 in April from 36.3 in March, although a reading below 50 indicates a continued contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a reading of 38.4.

Separately, the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for the month of April was unexpectedly upwardly revised to a reading of 65.1 from the previously reported reading of 61.9. The index was unexpected to be unrevised.

With the earnings season starting to wind down, economic news is likely to be in focus in the U.S. next week. Traders are likely to pay particularly close attention to the Labor Department's monthly employment report due to be released on Friday.

Reports on construction spending, pending home sales, labor productivity, and wholesale inventories are also likely to attract some attention.

Chesapeake Energy Corp., Sprint Nextel Corp., Entergy Corp, McKesson, Estee Lauder Companies Inc., Tyson Foods Inc, Alcatel Lucent, Henry Schein, Myriad Genetics and E.W. Scripps Co. will be reporting quarterly results on Monday.

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