Asian shares up ahead of ECB meeting

<p>Traders are expecting the ECB to announce a large stimulus programme.</p>

Asian shares rose today (January 22nd) on hopes that the European Central Bank (ECB) will announce a plan for quantitative easing (QE) later today to boost the region's sluggish growth.

Stocks rose after overnight gains in the US and European markets and higher commodity prices. The ECB is rumoured to announce the purchase of €50 billion (£38 billion) euros a month worth of bonds for at least a year.

The eurozone economy registered weak growth in December, according to the Markit/CIPS survey. The region's composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to 51.4 last month from an earlier estimate of 51.7. However, this was better than November's reading of 51.1.

Markit said its latest PMI survey suggested the eurozone economy grew by just 0.1 per cent in the last three months of 2014.

"It is clear investors are positioning for some aggressive action by Europe. The headline will be the size of the program on a nominal basis, with broad expectations of a €550 billion plan," Stan Shamu, IG's market strategist, wrote in a report quoted by CNBC. "With expectations running high, the risk will be for the ECB to disappoint."

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index closed 0.59 per cent higher today at 3,343.34, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.7 per cent to finish at 24,522.63. The benchmark Nikkei average rose 0.28 per cent to 17,329.02, while the broader Topix index slipped 0.1 per cent to close at 1,389.43.The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose half a per cent to close at 5,419.9 and the benchmark Kospi average closed 0.02 per cent down at 1,920.82. 

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