Asia stocks up as US central bank meets

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By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Wednesday amid hopes that the Federal Reserve would announce measures at the end of its two-day meeting to stimulate the U.S. economy.

Economists expect the U.S. central bank to either announce new bond-buying plans or to signal that a plan is in the works. The Fed has launched two rounds of bond purchases, most recently in August 2010, to lower long-term interest rates and make stocks more attractive to investors.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.8 percent to 8,722.15. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 19,514.06 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4 percent to 1,899.60. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.5 percent to 4,145.10. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia were also higher. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index fell.

Investors were further heartened by developments in Europe. Greece appeared to make progress in cobbling together a governing coalition while Spain's borrowing costs eased: its benchmark 10-year bond yield fell below 7 percent to 6.99 percent.

"On the data front, we have a very thin calendar in Asia. This means trading will take cues from the development in the advanced economies," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

Hopes for Fed action helped banking shares. Japan's Nomura Holdings rose 2.6 percent and National Australia Bank Ltd. added 2.3 percent.

Stocks rose sharply on Wall Street Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rise 0.8 percent to 12,837.33, its highest close in a month. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 1 percent to 1,357.98. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.2 percent to 2,929.76.

Benchmark oil for July delivery fell 19 cents to $83.84 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose by 76 cents to end the day at $84.03 per barrel in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2671 from $1.2689 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 78.85 yen from 79.04 yen.

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