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Asia shares gain after Wall Street rally as investors pin hopes on China stimulus

Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Monday after Wall Street got back to climbing following more encouraging profit reports and the latest signal that inflation is loosening its chokehold on the economy.

Sentiment also has been boosted by revived hopes for more stimulus from Beijing for the sluggish Chinese economy. Chinese factory activity contracted in July as export orders shrank, a survey showed, adding to pressure on the ruling Communist Party to reverse an economic slowdown.

A purchasing managers’ index issued by the national statistics agency and an industry group improved to 49.3 from June’s 49 on a 100-point scale but was below the 50-point level that shows activity contracting.

“The PMI surveys suggest that China’s economic recovery continued to lose momentum in July,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a commentary. “Looking forward, policy support is needed to prevent China’s economy from slipping into a recession, not least because external headwinds look set to persist for a while longer."

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.9% to 20,094.50 while the Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.5% to 3,291.04.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index was up 1.3% at 33,172.22. In Seoul, the Kospi climbed 0.9% to 2,632.58.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1% higher, to 7,410.40 and the SET in Bangkok was up 0.8%. The Sensex in India rose 0.2% to 66,304.33.

On Friday, the S&P 500 rose 1% to 4,582.23, closing out its ninth winning week in the last 11. The Dow added 0.5% to 35,459.29 and the Nasdaq climbed 1.9% to 14,316.66 as Big Tech stocks led the market.

Stocks have been rising recently on hopes high inflation is cooling enough to get the Federal Reserve to stop hiking interest rates. That in turn could allow the economy to continue growing and avoid a long-predicted recession.

A report on Friday bolstered those hopes, saying the inflation measure the Fed prefers to use slowed last month by a touch more than expected. Perhaps just as importantly, data also showed that total compensation for workers rose less than expected during the spring. While that’s discouraging for workers looking for bigger raises, investors see it adding less upward pressure on inflation.

The hope among traders is that the slowdown in inflation means Wednesday's hike to interest rates on by the Federal Reserve will be the final one of this cycle. The federal funds rate has leaped to a level between 5.25% and 5.50%, up from virtually zero early last year. High interest rates work to lower inflation by slowing the entire economy and hurting prices for stocks and other investments.

Though critics say the stock market’s rally may have gone too far, too fast, hopes for a halt to rate hikes helped technology stocks and others seen as big beneficiaries from easier rates to rally and lead the market Friday.

Microsoft, Apple and Amazon each rose at least 1.4% and were the three strongest forces pushing upward on the S&P 500.

Companies also continued to deliver stronger profits for the spring than analysts expected. Roughly halfway through the earnings season, more companies than usual are topping profit forecasts, according to FactSet.

Intel rose 6.6% after reporting a profit for the latest quarter, when analysts were expecting a loss.

Food giant Mondelez International climbed 3.7% after reporting stronger results for the spring than expected. The company behind Oreo and Ritz also raised its forecasts for financial results for the full year.

In other trading on Monday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gave up 12 cents to $80.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 49 cents to $80.58 on Friday.

Brent crude, the international standard, shed 15 cents to $84.27 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 142.05 Japanese yen from Friday's 141.01 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1017 from $1.1019.

AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed.

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