Asian markets rally on easing US worries

( Reuter )- Most Asian markets rose Tuesday as investors returned from the Easter holiday in a mood to buy after encouraging U.S. housing numbers and an overnight rally on Wall Street.

Markets in Hong Kong and Australia, both of which were closed since Thursday, surged on easing concerns about the global credit crisis that has battered Asian markets since the start of the year.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index jumped 4.5 percent in early afternoon trading to 22,063.11, while Australia's S& P/ASX 200 was up 3.8 percent at 5,328.

Investors were heartened by a new agreement that will give Bear Stearns Cos. shareholders five times the payout that was set in a JPMorgan Chase & Co. buyout deal a week ago. In the revised offer, JPMorgan raised its offer for Bear Stearns, which has been at the center of the mortgage meltdown, to $10 a share from $2 a share.

"The offer gives the market renewed confidence, indicating that after further assessment, the situation at Bear Stearns may not be as bad as initially thought," said Jamie Spiteri , head of trading at Shaw Stockbroking in Sydney.

There was some optimism about the U.S. housing sector, which has been at the heart of the credit problems. The National Association of Realtors that Monday said sales of existing homes rose 2.9 percent in February, the first gain since last July.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 187.32, or 1.52 percent, to 12,548.64 on Monday.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, the Nikkei 225 index was up 1.7 percent, while South Korea's Kospi was up 1.3 percent.

In Australia, investment bank Macquarie Group, which has been hit hard in recent months on concerns over the global credit market was up 10 percent, while National Australia Bank was up 6.9 percent.

Still, analysts warned that the declines in Asia-Pacific markets may not be over.

"It's too early to conclude an end of the prevailing bear market," said Ernie Hon, a strategist at ICEA Securities in Hong Kong.

Markets in China and Taiwan declined, with the Shanghai Composite Index down 1.7 percent. Taiwan's main index was down 0.8 percent after surging 4 percent Monday amid expectations that president-elect Ma Ying- jeou will bring greater economic engagement with China.

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