Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Asian markets continue climbing

SINGAPORE: Asian stocks gained Wednesday on renewed investor confidence in the U.S. economy while concerns about Greece's debt crisis eased.

All major Asian equity markets rose, bolstered by a 1.7 percent jump in the Dow Jones industrial average Tuesday. Markets in China and Taiwan were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Investors were cheered by signs the U.S. economy may be improving. On Tuesday. Kraft Foods Inc. and apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch reported earnings that beat expectations, while drugmaker Merck & Co. said profits jumped. UK banking giant Barclays also reported soaring profits.

Traders will be eyeing reports on housing starts, jobless claims and inflation later this week for more evidence the U.S. economy is rebounding strongly from last year's recession.

Markets also got a boost from news European officials are working with Greece to control its debt crisis. European Union leaders on Tuesday gave Greece one month to prove it can cut its fiscal deficit.

Concerns about rising debt burdens in Greece, Portugal and Spain have undermined investor confidence during the last few weeks.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was up 263.52 points, or 2.6 percent, at 10,297.77 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 359.03, or 1.8 percent, to 20,627.72.

South Korea's Kospi gained 24.95, or 1.4 percent, to 1,626.00 while Singapore added 1.1 percent and India 1.4 percent. Australia's benchmark advanced 2.1 percent.

In the U.S. on Tuesday, the Dow rose 169.67, or 1.7 percent, to 10,268.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19.36, or 1.8 percent, to 1,094.87, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 30.66, or 1.4 percent, to 2,214.19.

Oil prices extended gains above $77 a barrel in Asia amid expectations a growing U.S. economy will fuel increased crude demand.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 34 cents at $77.35 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.88 to settle at $77.01 on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 90.28 yen from 90.14 yen. The euro rose to $1.3774 from $1.3764.

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