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Asian markets up after Fed meeting

[HONG KONG] Asian markets rallied on Thursday with investors rushing back after a recent sell-off, spurred by a Wall Street recovery and an indication from the US Federal Reserve that interest rates will not likely rise until mid-2015.

While bank policymakers were reticent to give a firm date, their language indicated a change in tack, which analysts said suggested a rise in the first six months of the year. That lit a fire under the dollar.

Easing concerns about Russia's economy and a pick-up in oil prices also provided support to regional shares, with bargain-buyers making their move.

Tokyo surged 2.37 per cent as the greenback advanced against the dollar.

Hong Kong rose 1.20 per cent, Sydney added 1.43 per cent and Seoul was 0.38 per cent higher while Shanghai edged up 0.38 per cent.

The Fed's policy committee said it "judges that it can be patient in beginning to normalise the stance of monetary policy", adding that the decision will depend on economic data.

Policy, it said, was consistent with its prior statement that it would only begin raising rates "a considerable time" after its massive stimulus programme ended in October.

Although the change in language was subtle, "it was nevertheless a modification consistent with the view that rates are likely to rise in the first half of next year", said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange.

The news sent US shares surging. The Dow rose 1.69 per cent, the S&P 500 soared 2.04 per cent and the Nasdaq jumped 2.12 per cent.

And on currency markets the dollar surged in New York to 118.63 yen from 117.07 yen in Tokyo earlier Wednesday. In Asian trade Thursday the greenback was at 118.60 yen.

The euro bought 146.42 yen and US$1.2341 compared with 146.43 yen and US$1.2343.

Adding to the positive sentiment was news that oil supplies in the United States had dipped, pushing crude prices up slightly Wednesday and providing some respite from a recent plunge.

On Thursday in Asia US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery was flat at US$56.47 while Brent crude for February added 10 US cents to US$61.28.

Also, analysts said Russian moves to stabilise the ruble, which touched a record low against the dollar this week, seemed to be working.

Russia said it would sell about US$7 billion in foreign reserves to prop up its currency and also implement other measures to prevent a sell-off - soothing fears about Moscow's economic troubles spreading to the eurozone.

The moves helped the ruble to 61.50 against the dollar - well up from the 80 touched on Tuesday.

Gold was at US$1,193.75 an ounce compared with US$1,197.34 late Wednesday.