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Asian Stock Markets Rise Despite Japanese Economic Woes

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

Japan's Nikkei 225 index stood 0.9 percent higher at 9,041.90 after the government announced the economy had contracted at an annualized rate of 1.3 percent 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 an annualized 2.6 percent fall forecast in a Kyodo News agency survey.

The news was enough to boost Japanese stocks that might otherwise have taken a beating as the yen continues to strengthen. Toyoto Motor Corp. and its smaller rivals, Honda Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Corp. each gained more than 2 percent.

Consumer electronics giant Sony Corp. rose 3.5 percent and video game maker Nintendo Co. soared 7 percent.

Japan's economy was thrown into a tailspin on March 11 when a mammoth earthquake and tsunami wiped away much of the country's industrial northeast. Entire towns were washed away; infrastructure, utilities and factories vital to production were destroyed.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shot up 2.1 percent to 20,027.32, while Australia's S&P ASX 200 jumped 1.8 percent to 4,248.60. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and mainland China were also higher. South Korea's Kospi index was closed for a public holiday.

Global markets fluctuated wildly last week as investors already concerned over Europe's worsening debt crisis were further rattled by signs the U.S. might be headed toward recession.

The U.S. Federal Reserve last week signaled that it would keep interest rates super-low for two more years because of expectations that unemployment will remain high and economic growth slow.

The Fed's decision came after the government said the U.S. economy had barely expanded in the first six months of this year.

The euro strengthened to $1.4312 from $1.4245 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 76.91 yen from 76.75 Japanese yen.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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