Asia: Shares boosted by Wall St rally

[HONG KONG] Asian markets pushed higher on Wednesday, taking a lead from fresh gains in New York and Europe in response to reports that the European Central Bank will widen its stimulus programme.

Speculation about further monetary easing in the eurozone pushed the euro lower, while the dollar gave up some of its US gains in early Japanese trade.

Tokyo - which surged four per cent Monday before losing 2 per cent Tuesday - jumped 1.71 per cent by the break. Hong Kong climbed 0.62 per cent, Sydney added 0.84 per cent and Seoul put on 0.60 per cent while Shanghai was flat.

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were closed for public holidays.

Markets on Tuesday were broadly higher after data out of China showed the economy growing quicker than expected, even though it was at its slowest pace since the start of 2009.

They surged higher in Europe and on Wall Street later in the day after a report that the ECB could expand its bond-buying scheme to include corporate notes.

The ECB's present quantitative easing programme is limited to covered bonds and asset-backed securities, but the corporate paper market is much larger and better established.

If followed through early next year, as some reports suggest, the move could further push down long-term interest rates in the euro area and better encourage bank lending.

On Wall Street the three main indexes posted a third straight day of hefty gains. The Dow rose 1.31 per cent and the S&P 500 jumped 1.96 per cent.

The Nasdaq rallied 2.40 per cent, helped by a strong Apple earnings report. Apple, the biggest US company by market capitalisation, rose 2.7 per cent as fourth-quarter profits jumped 13 per cent to US$8.5 billion on strong iPhone sales.

European stocks also rallied, with London's FTSE 100 up 1.68 per cent, the Paris CAC 40 2.25 per cent higher and the DAX 30 in Frankfurt surging 1.94 per cent.

This week's gains have calmed nerves after last week's volatility, which was fuelled by worries about the global economy, although analysts say there is ongoing anxiety as the eurozone, China and Japan continue to struggle.

Expectations of further easing weighed on the euro, which dipped to $1.2714 in New York Tuesday from 1.2819 earlier in the day in Asia. In early Tokyo exchanges Wednesday the single currency bought US$1.2720.

The euro was trading at 136.03 yen against 136.04 yen in the US and well down from 136.70 yen earlier Tuesday.

The dollar also struggled to hold on to its US gains, dipping to 106.98 yen from 106.99 yen. However the greenback was also up from the 106.56 yen in Asia Tuesday.

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery eased 14 cents to close at US$82.67 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for December rose nine cents to US$86.31.

Gold was at US$1,248.55 an ounce against US$1,248.17 late Tuesday. AFP

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