Asian markets mostly higher on US fiscal hopes

Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday, taking a lead from Wall Street as dealers grow confident US lawmakers will reach an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff.

Continued weakness of the yen helped send Japanese shares surging for a second straight session as Shinzo Abe prepares to take over as prime minister, vowing to press a more aggressive policy of monetary easing.

Tokyo rose 0.96 percent, or 94.13 points, to 9,923.01, Seoul was up 0.51 percent, or 10.02 points, at 1,993.09, while Sydney added 0.48 percent, or 21.8 points, to 4,595.2.

Shanghai ended up 0.10 percent, or 2.12 points, at 2,162.46 while Hong Kong gave up earlier gains to end flat, dipping 18.88 points to 22,494.73.

Traders were reacting to news progress was finally being made in talks on a new deficit-cutting budget to replace the tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect at the start of January and which would likely tip the US economy into recession.

President Barack Obama hosted top Republican lawmaker John Boehner in the White House for 45 minutes Monday in the latest effort to avert going over the so-called fiscal cliff.

The meeting follows news that Boehner had changed his position on not allowing any more taxes, saying at the weekend that he would agree to some hikes for people earning more than $1 million.

Although Obama has said he would only agree to rises on people earning more than $250,000, analysts say the development shows the outline of a tentative deal is being formed.

Wall Street ended on a high, with the Dow closing up 0.76 percent, the S&P 500 gaining 1.19 percent and the Nasdaq adding 1.32 percent.

Japanese shares continued to be supported by the falling yen, which helps the country's exporters, as dealers bet on fresh central bank moves to boost the economy.

The election of Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday was widely expected and investors now expect the Bank of Japan to unveil a further loosening of monetary policy at the end of its two-day meeting on Thursday.

Abe and central bank chief Masaaki Shirakawa held talks on Tuesday at which the incoming premier said he wanted a two-percent inflation target, in the opening salvo of his battle to jumpstart the economy.

In share trading, utility giant TEPCO, which runs the Fukushima plant at the centre of last year's nuclear crisis, surged 17.32 percent on expectations the new government will shelve any short-term plans to ditch atomic power.

In afternoon Tokyo trade, the dollar bought 84.96 yen, up from 83.87 yen in New York on Monday, while the euro also edged higher to 110.49 yen, from 110.40 yen.

The European single currency fetched $1.3165, against $1.3161.

Oil prices were up. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January rose 58 cents to $87.74 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery advanced 73 cents to $108.33.

Gold was at $1,698.90 at 1115 GMT compared with $1,690.10 late Monday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.16 percent, or 12.46 points, to 7,643.74.

Hon Hai Precision added 1.38 percent at Tw$88.4 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.31 percent lower at Tw$96.7.

-- Manila rose 0.23 percent, or 12.74 points, to 5,636.59.

Metropolitan Bank was off 0.9 percent at 97.40 pesos and SM Investments added 1.6 percent to 829 pesos.

-- Wellington climbed 0.32 percent, or 12.77 points, to 3,979.25.

Telecom Corp gained 4.4 percent to NZ$2.255, Fletcher Building added 0.49 percent to NZ$8.10 and The Warehouse slipped 1.01 percent to NZ$2.95.

-- Singapore closed down 0.06 percent, or 1.91 points, at 3,156.79.

CapitaLand dipped 0.27 percent to Sg$3.67 and Singapore Telecommunications dropped 0.59 percent to Sg$3.37.

-- Kuala Lumpur was up 0.66 percent, or 10.86 points, to close at 1,659.44.

Petronas Dagangan added 6.2 percent to 23.54 ringgit and UMW Holdings climbed 1.9 percent to 12.00 ringgit.

-- Jakarta ended down 0.33 percent, or 14.42 points, at 4,301.44.

Cement maker Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa fell 0.44 percent to 22,500 rupiah, while cigarette maker Gudang Garam rose 1.35 percent to 59,950 rupiah.

-- Bangkok added 0.28 percent, or 3.85 points, to 1,362.94.

Power giant Electricity Generating Public Co. lost 0.73 percent to 136 baht, while telecoms firm Advanced Info Service added 1.94 percent to 210 baht.

-- Mumbai rose 0.63 percent, or 120.33 points, to 19,364.75.

Mobile phone giant Bharti Airtel rose 4.23 percent to 313.15 rupees while engineering giant BHEL rose 4.14 percent to 230.10 rupees.

--

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