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Asia stocks rise after Wall Street soars
Asian stock marktes rise after positive Fed assessment sends Wall Street soaring
By The Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian stock markets rose Wednesday, powered by the biggest gains of the year on Wall Street after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it expects unemployment in the world's largest economy to keep falling.

Other good news from the U.S. that drove markets higher included a 1.1 percent increase in retail sales last month. The government also revised its estimates higher for December and January.

Benchmark oil hovered below $107 per barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent to 10,082.97 as the yen continued its retreat from record highs against the U.S. dollar.

South Korea's Kospi index climbed 1.2 percent to 2,049.99 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.2 percent to 21,588.25. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent to 4,285.50. Benchmarks in Singapore, mainland China and Taiwan also rose.

Wall Street's rally began after government data showed improving retail sales and the Fed said it saw signs of a stronger economy and expected the unemployment rate to keep falling. The market soared in the last hour after JPMorgan Chase announced a share buyback and raised its quarterly dividend.

"Exports stocks, especially focusing on the U.S. market, will definitely benefit," said Dickie Wong, executive director of Kingston Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong.

Japanese exporters surged. Sony Corp. vaulted 4.7 percent and Nissan Motor Corp. climbed 3.6 percent.

South Korea's top shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries, jumped 3.5 percent and Samsung Electronics Co. gained 2.5 percent.

Higher prices for industrial metals like silver and copper helped mining and related stocks. Hong Kong-listed Jiangxi Copper rose 2.8 percent and Aluminum Corp. of China added 3.2 percent.

In Australia, BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, rose 1.5 percent.

The Dow finished at 13,177.68, its highest close since Dec. 31, 2007 ' putting the Dow within 1,000 points of its record, 14,164.53, set in October 2007.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.9 percent to 3,039.88 ' closing above 3,000 for the first time since December 2000. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed up 1.8 percent at 1,395.96, its highest level since June 5, 2008.

Benchmark oil for April delivery was up 7 cents to $106.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 37 cents to finish at $106.71 per barrel.

In currency trading, the euro was lower at $1.3068 from $1.3073 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 83.16 yen from 83.08 yen. The greenback remained in the 83-yen range, its strongest level against the yen since last April.

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