Stock prices on major Asian exchanges have risen sharply as investors welcome Tuesday's emergency interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Benchmark stock indexes in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea were up by about three to seven percent in early trading Wednesday.

The International Monetary Fund said the U.S. rate cut was appropriate and helpful. But the IMF said a significant slowdown in world economic growth this year still appears inevitable.

The U.S. central bank Tuesday cut a key interest rate by 0.75 percent, after worries over a slowing U.S. economy caused world stock prices to plunge in recent days.

It was biggest single reduction in the benchmark lending rate since 1990, when the Federal Reserve began using it as a policy tool.

Investors in Europe and the United States responded with share prices rising in late day trading Tuesday.

The major U.S. stock indexes still closed down, but most European indexes closed higher.

President Bush and U.S. lawmakers are negotiating over a proposed $145-billion package of measures to stimulate the economy.

Mr. Bush says he is optimistic that the administration and Congress can "find common ground" and come to a quickly agreement. He spoke at a White House meeting with key congressional leaders Tuesday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP, Bloomberg  and Reuters.