Asia stocks rise on hopes of Fed action on economy

Asian stocks edge up ahead of expected measures by Fed to boost flagging US economy

Associated Press
Asia stocks rally on Fed pledge to help US economy
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People walk by an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 as Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.7 percent to close at 8,959.96. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets edged up Thursday, underpinned by expectations the Federal Reserve will announce new measures to stimulate the U.S. economy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was up 0.5 percent at 9,008.01 — surpassing 9,000 for the first time since Aug. 30. South Korea's Kospi rose marginally to 1,950.19 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent to 20,099.09. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to 4,345.20.

Benchmarks in Taiwan, India, Indonesia and the Philippines rose. Singapore and mainland China fell.

The Federal Reserve concludes a two-day policy meeting Thursday, and expectations are high that Fed chief Ben Bernanke will announce steps to help the U.S. economy. The real question was how big those steps might be.

Tom Kaan, head of equity sales at Louis Capital Markets in Hong Kong, said expectations have been high for U.S. central bank action since Bernanke strongly hinted as much in a speech last month in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

"I think he doesn't have much choice," Kaan said. "The extent is what the markets are looking for. The size of it."

The biggest step would be a third round of bond purchases. In two previous bond-buying programs, the Fed bought more than $2 trillion of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities after the 2008 financial crisis.

Many analysts feel there is reason for optimism about the global economic outlook. The European Central Bank and the government of China are among authorities that have all announced steps to handle various economic crises or boost sluggish growth.

"The fact remains there is a lot of liquidity out there at low interest rates," Kaan said. "There is risk appetite. That is what is going to carry the equity markets through."

Stocks with business ties to Apple Inc. rose hours after the maker of the iPhone announced the upcoming release of a new version. Japan's Foster Electric jumped 5.4 percent and TDK Corp. was 4.1 percent higher, Kyoto News Agency reported.

Australian banking shares fell slightly. Westpac Banking Corp. lost 0.7 percent as did Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.

Stock markets rose Wednesday after the highest court in Germany cleared the way for the country to participate in a $640 billion European rescue fund that will lend money to struggling countries to keep them solvent.

The decision removed some uncertainty about Europe's efforts to solve its debt crisis. One flash point that remains is Greece, which still must convince creditors that it deserves more bailout money.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.1 percent to close at 13,333.35.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,436.56. The Nasdaq composite index increased 0.3 percent to 3,114.31

Benchmark oil was up 7 cents to $97.11 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents to end at $97.01 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2927 from $1.2894. The dollar fell to 77.70 yen from 77.87 yen.

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