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Asia stocks rise as talk of a Syria strike eases

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

Passersby wait to cross a street in front of the day's Nikkei 225 stock index seen on a board in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. The growing likelihood of Western military action against Syria pummeled Asian stock markets Wednesday and sent the price of oil soaring. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets rebounded Thursday as jitters began to ease about a possible international military response to the Syrian conflict.

The U.S. appeared to be edging closer to intervention in Syria after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that American forces were ready to act on any order by President Barack Obama. But the prospect of an immediate multinational response diminished Wednesday after the U.N. Security Council's permanent members failed to agree to a proposal to use force against Syria.

Investors have been reducing exposure to Asia's emerging markets for several weeks, anticipating that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin withdrawing its monetary stimulus. The sell-off accelerated this week when the U.S. said it had proof that chemical weapons had been used against civilians in Syria's civil war.

The respite in tensions sent investors on a bargain-hunting spree.

"The market already had a significant drop," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "So I think for some traders, it's a good time to bet."

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.8 percent to 13,440.39. South Korea's Kospi advanced 1.5 percent to 1,912.27. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4 percent to 21,608.57. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 percent to 5,092.50.

The benchmark PSE in Manila rose 2.9 percent after data showed the Philippine economy expanded by 7.5 percent in the second quarter, one of Asia's fastest growing, as robust domestic spending insulated it from weak global demand.

"The most encouraging aspect of today's data was the continued strong growth in investment," said analysts at Capital Economics. "Recent improvements in the business environment as well as an ongoing clampdown against corruption should further support investment in the next couple of years."

Among individual stocks, energy shares rose sharply after oil prices hit a two-year high Wednesday. Japanese energy explorer Inpex Corp. jumped 5.1 percent. PetroChina Co. rose 1.9 percent.

Qantas Airways soared 11.4 percent after the Australia flag carrier reported a modest annual profit.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent to close at 14,824.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 added 0.3 percent to 1,634.96. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.4 percent to 3,593.35.

Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 77 cents to $109.33 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.09 to close at $110.10 a barrel on Wednesday, its highest finish since May 3, 2011.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3325 from $1.3337 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 97.68 yen from 97.74 yen.


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