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Asian markets mostly up, yen falls on BoJ chief reports

Asian markets mostly rose Monday, with Tokyo surging after the yen hit a near three-year low against the dollar, while concerns eased that the US Federal Reserve could soon end its loose monetary policy.

Investors in Japan cheered reports that the likely next central bank chief was in favour of aggressive monetary easing.

In other developments, the pound slumped after Britain lost its AAA credit rating. Also, China's manufacturing growth hit a four-month low in February but remained positive, British banking giant HSBC said.

Tokyo surged 2.43 percent, or 276.58 points, to 11,662.52 and Sydney climbed 0.75 percent, or 37.7 points, to 5,055.8. But Seoul lost 0.46 percent, or 9.37 points, to 2,009.52.

Shanghai ended up 0.50 percent, or 11.66 points, at 2,325.82, while Hong Kong added 0.17 percent, or 37.64 points, to 22,820.08.

Japanese media said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was set to nominate Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda as next governor of the Bank of Japan.

Kuroda "backs Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bold monetary easing policies while maintaining good links with the international financial industry", the Nikkei business daily said.

"There was a little euphoria because we have some clarity over the Bank of Japan and that caused the yen to sharply weaken after the opening," Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar surged to 94.77 yen in early Tokyo trade, its highest since May 2010, before easing to 93.90 yen later in the day, still up from 93.37 yen in New York late Friday.

The euro changed hands at 124.16 yen compared with 123.18 yen on Friday, while it was at $1.3230 from $1.3189.

Regional sentiment was also boosted by easing concerns over the Fed's bond-buying scheme.

Speculation it would end its quantitative easing programme in 2013 had driven markets lower last week.

But on Friday US investors began to conclude that the market had "misinterpreted" minutes of the bank's meeting that discussed such a move, said Peter Cardillo of Rockwell Global Capital.

Cardillo expected Fed chief Ben Bernanke to reaffirm the scheme in congressional testimony this week. St Louis Fed president James Bullard told CNBC that the policy would remain in effect for "a long time".

On Wall Street Friday the Dow rose 0.86 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.88 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.97 percent.

The pound remained under pressure after Moody's on Friday said it had cut Britain's rating for the first time in history, citing weak growth and rising debt.

The unit sank at one point Monday to $1.5072, its lowest level since July 2010, before recovering to $1.5145. The pound was at $1.5250 before the Moody's announcement.

In China, HSBC said its preliminary purchasing managers' index stood at 50.4 for the month, down from a final 52.3 in January, although it marked the fourth consecutive month of growth after 12 months of shrinkage.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

"The Chinese economy is still on track for a gradual recovery," Qu Hongbin, a Hong Kong-based economist with HSBC said in a statement, downplaying the fall in the index.

Despite the slowdown markets remained buoyant.

"If we got a very strong number it would have strengthened the worries about policy tightening," said Chi Lo, senior strategist Greater China for BNP Paribas Investment Partners in Hong Kong.

On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, rose three cents to $93.16 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April rose six cents to $114.16.

Gold was at $1,593.30 at 1105 GMT compared with $1,579.80 late Friday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore was flat, nudging up 0.63 points to 3,288.76.

Singapore Airlines added 0.28 percent to Sg$10.93 and DBS Bank gained 0.33 percent to Sg$15.24.

-- Taipei finished 0.49 percent lower, shedding 39.21 points to 7,947.68.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. fell 1.87 percent to Tw$105.0 while leading smartphone maker HTC was 0.90 percent lower at Tw$275.5.

-- Manila added 0.84 percent, or 56.27 points, to 6,721.33.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 1.04 percent to 2,900 pesos and Ayala Corp. jumped 3.3 percent at 590 pesos.

-- Wellington advanced 0.28 percent, or 11.84 points, to 4,226.44.

Fletcher Building gained 1.2 percent to NZ$8.78 and Chorus slipped 3.3 percent to NZ$2.94.

-- Jakarta rose 0.97 percent, or 44.98 points, to 4,696.11.

Telekomunikasi Indonesia rose 0.51 percent to 9,900 rupiah and Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper jumped 12.05 percent to 930 rupiah, while miner Aneka Tambang fell 0.78 to 1,270 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur added 0.32 percent, or 5.27 points, to 1,627.35.

Malayan Banking gained 0.9 percent to 9.15 ringgit and while Maxis added 0.5 percent to 6.34 ringgit but Sime Darby fell 0.2 percent to 9.19 ringgit.

-- Bangkok was closed for a public holiday.

-- Mumbai edged up 0.08 percent, or 14.68 points, to 19,331.69.

Drug maker Ranbaxy Labs rose 4.80 percent to 433.15 rupees while software outsourcer Infosys rose 2.84 percent to 2,917.2 rupees.