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Asian markets rise after Dow nears record close

Asian markets rose Wednesday after the Dow finished near its all-time closing high, with Japan's Nikkei leading the way, fuelled by continuing weakness in the yen.

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 continue its loose monetary policy.

Tokyo jumped 2.28 percent, or 247.23 points, to 11,113.95, its highest finish since April 2010. Sydney rose 0.16 percent, or 7.7 points, to 4,896.7 while Seoul climbed 0.43 percent, or 8.47 points, to 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 last week of unlimited easing and its target of two percent inflation.

Investors took on board a comment from 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 European trade the dollar gained to 91.35 yen, from 90.72 yen in New York on Tuesday, while the euro fetched 123.68 yen, from 122.42 yen.

The single currency also bought $1.3540 against $1.3493.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.52 percent to finish just 1.5 percent below its all-time closing high of 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 $1,666.55 at 1025 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 of 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.

-- Singapore closed up 0.80 percent, or 26.15 points, to 3,285.90.

Oil-rig maker Keppel Corp gained 0.95 percent to Sg$11.64 while DBS Bank rose 0.41 percent to Sg$14.83.

-- Kuala Lumpur shares fell 9.61 points, or 0.59 percent, to close at 1,627.73.

Axiata Group shed 0.9 percent to 6.29 ringgit, while Telekom Malaysia fell 0.4 percent to 5.56. Maxis added 0.2 percent to 6.37 ringgit.

-- Jakarta ended up 13.94 points, or 0.31 percent, at 4,452,98.

Cigarette producer Gudang Garam rose 2.68 percent to 51,700 rupiah, food manufacturer Cahaya Kalbar gained 2.14 percent to 1,430 rupiah while carmaker Astra International lost 1.30 percent to 7,600 rupiah.

-- Bangkok rose 0.81 percent, or 12.05 points, to close at 1,490.82.

Coal producer Banpu gained 0.51 percent to 391.00 baht while PTT jumped 3.88 percent to 348.00 baht.

-- Mumbai ended flat, up 0.07 percent, or 14.10 points, to 20,005.00, even as the rupee rose to 53.3 to the dollar, a three-month-high.

Hindustan Unilever, the local arm of food giant Unilever, rose 1.97 percent to 477.75 rupees while Reliance Industries rose 1.87 percent to 899.05 rupees.