Asia stocks edge up as Syria worries diminish

Asian stocks post modest gains after fears of US military action against Syria decline

Associated Press
Markets muted as focus returns to Fed
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People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo as Japan's bench mark Nikkei 225 index shows 258.36 points gain to 14,119.17 Monday morning, Sept. 9, 2013. Asian stocks opened higher on Monday, lifted by Tokyo's Olympic bid victory, Chinese export growth and an Australian conservative coalition's election victory. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets posted modest gains Thursday as the risk of U.S. military intervention in Syria appeared to diminish.

Diplomatic efforts to get Syria to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons went into high gear Wednesday, easing fears that the U.S. would launch an attack. Washington has threatened to retaliate against Syrian President Bashar Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against civilians outside Damascus last month.

President Barack Obama contends that chemical attacks pose a potential threat to the global community and retaliation is necessary. But he has faced an uphill battle trying to convince congressional leaders and U.S. allies to go along.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 23,019.37. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.5 percent to 2,013.70. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 5,247.70. But Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent to 14,382.92. A firmer yen hurt export shares.

On Friday, investors will be closely monitoring U.S. retail sales data for August as they gear up for next week's policy meeting of the Federal Reserve.

Over recent weeks, the markets have priced in the likelihood that the Fed will start to reduce its monetary stimulus at the meeting. The main question for most traders is how much the current $85 billion of monthly asset purchases will be reduced.

On Wall Street, stocks mostly rose Wednesday as investors continued to bet that a U.S.-Syria military conflict may not happen. The Standard & Poor's 500 index posted its seventh gain in a row after starting the day with a loss. The Nasdaq composite posted a small loss. Both indexes were held back by a decline in shares of Apple and other tech companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.9 percent to close at 15,326.60. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.3 percent, to 1,689.13. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1 percent, to 3,725.01.

Benchmark oil for October delivery rose 6 cents to $107.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 17 cents to close at $107.56 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose $1.3320 from $1.3312 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 99.50 yen from 99.87 yen.

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