Asian shares rise after Wall Street lead

Asian markets were lifted Thursday by a strong lead from Wall Street after upbeat earnings reports and Ben Bernanke's comments that the US Federal Reserve could step in to help the economy.

Tokyo rose 0.79 percent, or 68.81 points, to 8,795.55, Seoul gained 1.56 percent, or 28.05 points, to 1,822.96, and Sydney climbed 2.02 percent, or 83.1 points, to 4,206.7.

Hong Kong was up 1.66 percent, or 319.17 points, at 19,559.05, and Shanghai closed up 0.73 percent, or 15.74 points, at 2,184.84.

Tech firms in Asia benefited from news that Intel, the world's leading semiconductor maker, had posted better-than-expected earnings for the April-June quarter.

Investor confidence on Wall Street lifted after Internet search giant Yahoo! posted above forecast results and the Bank of America said it had swung back into the black in the second quarter after posting a loss of almost $9 billion a year ago.

The Dow climbed 0.81 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.67 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.12 percent.

Adding to sentiment was the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report, which offered reassurance amid worries about a recent run of disappointing data, saying "overall economic activity continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace in June and early July".

Fed chairman Bernanke, testifying for a second day to Congress, reiterated that the economy was slowing and the central bank would act if warranted to boost growth.

He told lawmakers that it was "certainly possible" the central bank could take new steps to support the economy if the jobs market failed to pick up.

His comments followed Tuesday's testimony in which he warned second quarter growth in the world's biggest economy could come in lower than the first three months of the year.

Dealers also took heart from June housing starts data, showing a rise of 6.9 percent from May.

The dollar slipped on expectations of a fresh injection of cash by the Federal Reserve into the economy. In early European trade, the greenback bought 78.63 yen compared with 78.78 yen in New York late Wednesday.

The euro fell after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday she was "optimistic" but could not be certain that the European project would work, casting doubts on plans for tighter European integration.

The single currency bought $1.2270 and 96.50 yen, from $1.2280 and 96.75 yen.

Also Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that the eurozone was in "critical" danger and needed to make speedy moves towards a banking union and some form of pooled debt.

On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, gained 68 cents to $90.55 a barrel in the late afternoon, while Brent North Sea crude for September delivery was up 84 cents at $106.00.

Gold was at $1,584.20 an ounce at 1100 GMT, from $1,579.18 on Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore closed up 0.39 percent, or 11.75 points, at 3,028.96.

Fraser and Neave sank 4.52 percent to Sg$7.60 while DBS Group gained 1.46 percent to Sg$14.55.

-- Taipei closed 1.41 percent, or 99.52 points, higher at 7,148.57.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co gained 3.61 percent to end at Tw$77.5, while Hon Hai Precision was 1.49 percent higher at Tw$88.3.

-- Manila fell 0.60 percent, or 31.18 points, to 5,189.37.

Ayala Corp. was down 1.10 percent at 430.20 pesos while SM Investments slipped 0.69 percent to 720 pesos.

-- Wellington closed 0.34 percent, or 11.72 points, higher at 3,485.78.

Telecom rose 0.6 percent to NZ$2.54 and Fisher & Paykel Appliances added 0.9 percent to NZ$0.57 but Fletcher Building was down 0.17 percent at NZ$5.84.

-- Jakarta closed 0.36 percent, or 14.56 points, higher at 4,096.20.

Bank Danamon rose 1.6 percent to 6,300 rupiah, Bank Mandiri gained 2.7 percent to 7,600 rupiah and Aneka Tambang added 0.74 percent to 1,370 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur closed flat at 1644.60, just 0.40 points lower.

Petronas Dagangan gained 0.9 percent to close at 21.44, while MMC Corp. added 0.8 percent to end at 2.55. YTL Corp. shed 2.6 percent to 1.90 and British American Tobacco (Malaysia) slipped 2.0 percent to close at 56.72.

-- Bangkok slipped 0.59 percent, or 7.18 points, to 1,212.96.

Banpu dropped 0.86 percent to 460.00 Baht, while PTT added 0.59 percent to 342.00 Baht.

-- Mumbai's Sensex rose 0.55 percent or 93.84 points to 17,278.85.

Reliance Industries rose 1.73 percent to 727.75. Maruti Suzuki India plunged 8.74 percent to 1,117.35.

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