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New Report: Asia Stocks on 'Tentative Recovery'


Stocks in Asia reached a three-month high this week, injecting fresh hopes among investors of an early turnaround in the global financial crisis. A new report by the Asian Development Bank says, although Asia's stock markets are showing signs of stabilizing, the real recovery could be "lengthy".

The Asian Development Bank's Asia Capital Markets Monitor report says the outflow of capital from emerging markets in Asia has slowed in the first quarter of 2009, after huge withdrawals in the second half of 2008.

The report say there are signs of a "tentative recovery" in Asia's stock markets, as investors becoming less pessimistic about the region's prospects.

This week, the Morgan Stanley Composite index, which tracks stocks of some of the biggest companies in the Asia-Pacific region except Japan, reached a three-month high. On Monday, the Shanghai Composite Index reached its highest level since August, as investors were encouraged by Premier Wen Jiabao's recent remarks that the country's massive stimulus spending is beginning to bear results.

Lee Jong-wha, the head of the regional economic integration office of the Asia Development Bank - a Manila-based bank which lends to governments in the region - says continued economic expansion in countries like China and India will help push this recovery.

"The fast-growing economies in the region provide plenty of opportunities for long-term investors. I think these strong development need especially to build infrastructure, and Asia's strong growth momentum should also help local markets recover," said Lee.

The report says as much as $65 billion in private capital is expected to come to the region this year, although that number is sharply lower than previous years. Emerging Asia includes China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

But Lee warns that the immediate economic outlook for the region remains "cloudy." The ADB report says that, even if the markets may have reached bottom, the eventual recovery could still be drawn-out.

New York University economics professor Nouriel Roubini, also known as "Dr. Doom" for his predictions of financial crises, agrees.

"I do agree that we are closer right now to the bottom of this stock market, U.S. and globally than we were, say, a year ago. But I think, even the latest rally is a bear market rally, and there will be more contraction," said Roubini.

In Hong Kong Monday, Roubini said bad earnings from American companies and poor results from the "stress tests" being conducted by authorities on U.S. financial institutions, will scare investors.

Indeed, some of Asia's major markets fell Tuesday, on what analysts say is reaction to news of rising bad loans in American banks. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell two-point-four percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped nearly three percent, while Shanghai was down nearly one percent. South Korea's KOSPI was up nearly half a percent. Taiwan's stock index also rose one-point-seven percent.

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