Asia stocks rise as Fed official backs easy policy
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday after investor confidence was boosted by a Federal Reserve official's comments that the U.S. central bank should stick with its super-easy monetary policy.
Regional Fed chief James Bullard said in a speech Tuesday that the Fed should continue its monthly $85 billion in bond purchases, which drives down interest rates and thus encourages lending and spending, to help spur the U.S. economic recovery.
That helped put Wall Street back on positive footing Tuesday and hours later boosted Asian shares, since some of that easy money inevitably washes up in stocks.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.2 percent to 15,559.95. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.6 percent to 1,992.12. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3 percent to 5,163.20. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and the Philippines rose. Mainland Chinese shares were higher.
Trading in Hong Kong was temporarily suspended due to bad weather.
Later Wednesday, the Fed will release minutes from its most recent policy meeting, while Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will testify before Congress to discuss his outlook for the U.S. economy.
Analysts at Capital Economics said in an email commentary that Bernanke is expected to emphasize that "the Fed stands ready to quicken or slow the pace of its monthly asset purchases."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent to close at 15,387.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,669.16. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.2 percent to 3,502.12.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 42 cents to $95.76 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 55 cents to close at $96.16 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2923 from $1.2900 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell slightly to 102.49 yen from 102.56 yen.
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