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Asian markets rise as Dow nears record high

Asian markets climbed on Wednesday, with Japan's Nikkei leading the way, fuelled by continuing weakness in the yen and a powerful performance on Wall Street, where the Dow closed near its record high.

Traders are keeping a close eye on the United States, where the Federal Reserve is due to end a two-day policy meeting, with analysts expecting it to carry on with its loose monetary policy.

Tokyo jumped 2.28 percent, or 247.23 points, to 11,113.95, its highest finish since April 2010, and Sydney rose up 0.16 percent, or 7.7 points, to 4,896.7. Seoul closed up 0.43 percent, or 8.47 points, at 1,964.43.

Hong Kong stocks ended 0.71 percent higher, adding 166.89 points to 23,822.06 and Shanghai gained 1.00 percent, or 23.50 points, to 2,382.48.

The euro and dollar extended their gains against the yen in response to the Bank of Japan's pledge of unlimited easing last week and its target of two percent inflation.

Investors took on board a comment from Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso, who, defending the country's easing policies against criticism from abroad, said the yen's "excessive strength is in correction".

A senior dealer at a major bank in Tokyo said: "The comment is nothing new so it can't push up the pair like a rocket anymore, but it still has some power left."

In afternoon Tokyo trade, the dollar gained to 91.12 yen, from 90.72 yen in New York on Tuesday, while the euro fetched 123.05 yen, from 122.42 yen.

The single currency also bought $1.3505 against $1.3493.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.52 percent to finish just 1.5 percent below its all-time closing high seen in October 2007, despite a lack of buying incentives and a weaker-than-expected consumer confidence reading.

The S&P 500 advanced 0.51 percent and the Nasdaq was flat.

US dealers are awaiting the outcome of the Fed's policy meeting later in the day, looking for new clues to the state of the world's biggest economy. That will be followed on Friday by data on job creation.

Oil prices were mixed. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, rose 11 cents to $97.68 a barrel in the afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for March delivery gained 10 cents to $114.46.

Gold was at $1,667.16 at 0810 GMT compared with $1,661.10 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.40 percent, or 30.98 points, to 7,832.98.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 0.50 percent higher at Tw$101.5 while leading smartphone maker HTC added 1.93 percent to Tw$290.0.

-- Manila added 0.59 percent, or 36.50 points, to 6,271.23.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. added 1.4 percent to close at 2,844 pesos and Metro Pacific Investments rose 4.0 percent to 5.22 pesos.

-- Wellington rose 1.13 percent, or 47.26 points, to close at a five-year high 4,247.55.

Telecom added 1.91 percent to NZ$2.359 and Fletcher Building gained 1.40 percent to end at NZ$9.39.