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Asian markets climb

Dec 27 2012 21:30 AFP

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Hong Kong - Asian shares rose on Friday on hopes for a last-minute deal to avert the US fiscal cliff despite warnings from a leading Democrat that an agreement is unlikely just days before a year-end deadline.

Expectations for more aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan continued to weigh on the yen, which was sitting at more than two-year lows against the dollar.

Tokyo's Nikkei climbed 0.71% to highs not seen since before last year's March 11 quake-tsunami disaster, while Hong Kong added 0.35%, Sydney gained 0.70%, Seoul rose 0.30% and Shanghai put on 0.10%.

US politicians have until Tuesday to come up with a deficit-cutting budget that is less painful than the steep tax hikes and swingeing spending cuts that most economists say will tip the country into recession.

With time counting down Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for the lack of progress on a deal, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying: "I have to be very honest, I don't know time-wise how it can happen now."

President Barack Obama cut short his Christmas holiday to Hawaii to host top congressional leaders on Friday in a last-ditch bid to find an agreement.

Dealers seemed to take heart from reports that the House of Representatives would reconvene on Sunday, raising hopes of an 11th-hour compromise.

However, SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires: "The market has factored in the possibility that talks will spill over to 2013.

"It remains a focus of attention, but sooner or later it's going to be solved."

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.14%, the S&P 500 slipped 0.12% and the Nasdaq shed 0.14%.

Despite the uncertainty in Washington the dollar climbed against the yen, buying ¥86.48 in early Asian trade, up from ¥86.09 in New York late on Thursday, hovering around its highest level since August 2010.

The euro was at ¥114.50 and $1.3248 against ¥113.97 and $1.3235.

Investors have been selling the yen on expectations Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will carry out his promises of more aggressive monetary easing and big government spending to lift inflation and kickstart the economy.

There was little movement on news that factory output for November was down a bigger than forecast 1.7% month on month and a warning from the economy ministry that "industrial production is on a downward trend".

Oil prices rose, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February adding 48 cents to $91.35 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February delivery gaining 38 cents to $111.18.

Gold was at $1 663.05 at 02:00 GMT compared with $1 655.26 late on Thursday.



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