Asian markets mostly up on hopes for US fiscal deal

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Investors check the stock price at a private securities company in Shanghai, China, on Nov. 13, 2012. Asian stock markets mostly rose Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, on optimism that US lawmakers will be able to agree a deal to avert a “fiscal cliff” that would tip the world’s biggest economy back into recession. AP PHOTO/EUGENE HOSHIKO

HONG KONG—Asian markets mostly rose Monday on optimism that US lawmakers will be able to agree a deal to avert a “fiscal cliff” that would tip the world’s biggest economy back into recession.

The Nikkei in Tokyo enjoyed a third straight rally due to the yen’s weakness after the front-runner to become Japan’s next prime minister said he would push for unlimited monetary easing if his party won next month’s general election.

Tokyo climbed 1.43 percent, or 129.04 points, to end at 9,153.20, Sydney rose 0.57 percent, or 24.6 points, to 4,361.4, and Seoul was up 0.93 percent, or 17.27 points, to close at 1,878.10.

Hong Kong ended up 0.49 percent, or 103.35 points, at 21.262.36. Shanghai closed up 0.11 percent, or 2.25 points, at 2,016.98 after dipping below a key support level to a nearly four-year low earlier in the day.

US President Barack Obama – currently on a Southeast Asia visit – has met congressional leaders from both parties to open talks on pulling back from the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts, due to take effect on January 1.

Fears around the world over the looming deadline have depressed markets for most of the month.

The two sides stressed willingness to find common ground and avoid a face-off like that over the country’s debt ceiling, which almost brought the country to a standstill in August.

The comments helped Wall Street Friday. The Dow finished up 0.37 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.48 percent, although the Nasdaq shed 0.57 percent.

On currency markets the increased confidence that a deal can be sealed in Washington saw investors move away from the safe-haven yen, providing support to the under-pressure euro and the dollar.

The euro bought $1.2761 and 103.65 yen in early trade, up from $1.2741 and 103.60 yen in New York late Friday. The dollar was slightly down at 81.24 yen from 81.31 yen, after it hit 81.59 yen in earlier trade, its highest level in nearly seven months.

The dollar climbed 2.3 percent against the yen last week, its best week since February.

The yen was also under selling pressure after opposition party chief Shinzo Abe said last week that he would press the Japanese central bank to carry out a more aggressive monetary policy, which would flood markets with the local currency.

Abe is the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which is expected to win the election on December 16.

The Nikkei rose 1.90 percent Thursday and another 2.20 percent on Friday on expectations of a win for Abe, who is a former prime minister.

“After Friday’s rise, there is renewed energy in the market,” said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities.

“With the weaker yen and stronger US stocks, the market is looking more bullish,” he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Oil prices rose. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January, added 82 cents to $87.74 a barrel in the afternoon. Brent North Sea crude for January delivery gained 69 cents to $109.64.

Gold was at $1,723.10 by 1100 GMT compared with $1,707.80 late Friday.

In other markets:

— Wellington closed 0.13 percent, or 5.23 points, lower at 3,942.61.

Fletcher Building was off 0.94 percent at NZ$7.38, Telecom fell 0.42 percent to NZ$2.38 and Contact Energy slipped 0.39 percent to NZ$5.14.

— Taiwan fell 1.03 points, or 0.01 percent, to 7,129.04.

HTC dropped 2.01 percent to Tw$243.5 while Hon Hai Precision was 0.56 percent lower at Tw$89.2.

— Manila rose 10.27 points, or 0.19 percent, to close at 5,449.55.

Manila Electric Co. was 0.63 percent higher at 254.20 pesos, and Philippine National Bank jumped 4.6 percent to 75.30 pesos.

— Kuala Lumpur shares lost 5.97 points, or 0.37 percent, to end at 1,623.31.

Telekom Malaysia was down 1.1 percent at 5.45 ringgit while UEM Land shed 1.3 percent to 2.22.

— Bangkok gained 0.27 percent, or 3.52 points, to 1,283.65.

Banpu dropped 0.55 percent to 363 baht, while PTT lost 0.64 percent to 312 baht.

— Jakarta ended down 37.845 points, or 0.87 percent, at 4,313.439.

Aneka Tambang dropped 0.80 percent to 1,240 rupiah, Bank Permata slipped 0.71 percent to 1,390 rupiah, while Astra International climbed 0.65 percent to 7,800 rupiah.

— Singapore’s Straits Times Index closed up 0.18 percent, or 5.30 points, to 2,950.93.

City Developments fell 1.18 percent to Sg$10.87, while United Overseas Bank shed 0.33 percent to Sg$17.91.

–Mumbai rose 0.16 percent, or 29.63 points, at 18,339.0 points.

Maruti Suzuki rose 3.87 percent to 1,494.6 rupees, while Bharti Airtel rose 2.89 percent to 309.8 rupees.

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