Asian markets gain as China cooling worries ease

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BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Thursday as fears diminished about China’s lending curbs and Australia’s economic recovery showed new signs of gathering momentum.

Benchmarks from Tokyo to Seoul gained 1 percent or more while oil inched toward $80 a barrel after tumbling since earlier in the week.

Also galvanizing investors was modest gains Wednesday on Wall Street, where a Federal Reserve report provided optimism about the economy by noting that the recovery was spreading geographically even as new jobs remain scarce.

The region’s markets tumbled the previous day amid jitters that China’s move to slow a torrent of bank lending could dent the pace of recovery in countries that are increasingly reliant on demand from the world’s No. 3 economy.

But with the initial knee-jerk reaction over, a more considered view of the situation was able to emerge.

For now, economists say, China’s planners are likely to confine tightening to technical tinkering to discourage excess lending. They are likely to wait some time before raising benchmark interest rates or cutting back on the government stimulus spending credited with helping revive domestic demand – and creating jobs.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average led Asia’s gains, jumping 165.96, or 1.6 percent, to 10,900.90. That was despite core machinery orders — a closely watched indicator of corporate capital spending — slumping to a record low in November as anemic domestic demand kept companies cautious.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 142.15, or 0.7 percent, to 21,890.70 and South Korea’s Kospi added 1.1 percent to 1,689.96.

Elsewhere, Australia’s market rose 0.6 percent after new figures showed that the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 5.5 percent in December and thousands of new jobs were created.

Singapore’s bencmark was up 1 percent and India’s Sensex advanced 0.3 percent.

In the U.S. on Wednesday, the Dow rose 53.51, or 0.5 percent, to 10,680.77. The index traded above 10,700 for the first time since Oct. 3, 2008, rising as high as 10,709.26.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 9.46, or 0.8 percent, to 1,145.68, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 25.59, or 1.1 percent, to 2,307.90.

Oil prices inched to near $80 a barrel in Asia as rising stock markets ahead of fourth quarter earnings cheered crude traders. Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 27 cents to $79.92 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange; the contract gave up $1.14 to settle at $79.65 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 91.75 yen from 91.39 yen. The euro advanced to $1.4547 from $1.4510.