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Asian markets mostly higher after Wall Street gains

Asian markets were mostly higher on Thursday after Wall Street advanced in response to an upbeat outlook for the US economy by the Federal Reserve, while Chinese trade growth picked up pace in June.

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly higher on Thursday after Wall Street advanced in response to an upbeat outlook for the US economy by the Federal Reserve, while Chinese trade growth picked up pace in June.

An indication from the Fed that it will keep interest rates at record lows well into next year kept downward pressure on the dollar.

Sydney added 0.22 percent, or 11.92 points, to close at 5464.4 despite soft jobs figures, while Seoul added 0.12 percent, or 2.34 points, to 2,002.84 and Hong Kong put on 0.27 percent, or 62.92 points, to 23,238.99. Shanghai was flat, nudging 0.27 percent down to 2,038.34.

Tokyo dipped 0.56 percent, or 36.89 points, to 15,265.76 as the strong yen hit exporters.

Jakarta rallied on projections the business-friendly Joko Widodo would win a close presidential election, while Mumbai slipped 0.28 percent to 25,372.75 as India's new government unveiled its a much-anticipated first budget that lacked any major reforms.

US shares provided a positive lead as investors picked up bargains after a two-day losing streak thanks to an upbeat assessment of the US economy by Fed policymakers in the minutes of their June board meeting.

The minutes showed the bank plans to end its five-year-long, economy-boosting bond-buying scheme in October.

"If the economy progresses about as the committee expects... this final reduction would occur following the October meeting," the minutes said.

The timetable was as expected following a slew of strong data out of Washington in recent weeks, the latest being last month's better-than-forecast jobs report.

The bank also said it expects not to hike interest rates for "a considerable time" after the stimulus programme ends, "especially if projected inflation continued to run below the committee's 2 percent longer-run goal", the minutes said.

Adding to the buying sentiment was aluminium giant Alcoa, which kicked off the second-quarter earnings season by reporting it was in the black again after posting a big loss a year ago.

In New York the Dow edged up 0.47 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.63 percent.

However, expectations that rates will remain low weighed on the dollar. In afternoon Tokyo trade the greenback was at 101.50 yen, compared with 101.64 yen in New York.

The euro bought $1.3641 and 138.50 yen against $1.3642 and 138.66 yen.

In China the General Administration of Customs said exports rose 7.2 percent year-on-year in June while imports gained 5.5 percent.

The figures were up from May although exports were well short of forecasts.

Indonesian shares rallied 1.46 percent, or 73.30 points, to 5,098.01, as unofficial tallies showed Widodo ahead of Prabowo Subianto in the race to lead Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

Investors have been hoping for victory for the Jakarta chief, the first serious presidential contender without deep roots in the Suharto era, seeing him as a potential reformer and clean leader in a graft-ridden country.

Prabowo, a general in the Suharto era who has been dogged by human rights abuse allegations, is seen as less friendly to overseas investors.

Traders in India digested the maiden budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government, which promised fiscal prudence and more opportunities for foreign investors in key sectors.

It slipped as dealers were left disappointed over the lack of any "big bang" reforms to jolt Asia's number-three economy back into life.

Oil prices were lower. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery declined 65 cents to $101.64 while Brent crude dipped 48 cents to $107.80.

Gold fetched $1,341.45 an ounce at 1125 GMT compared with $1,324.87 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.79 percent, or 75.14 points, to 9,565.12.

PC maker Acer rose 2.55 percent to Tw$22.1 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 0.37 percent higher at Tw$134.5.

-- Wellington added 0.10 percent, or 5.27 points, to 5,128.01.

Fletcher Building was up 0.45 percent at NZ$8.90 and Telecom edged 0.56 percent higher to NZ$2.69.

-- Manila rose 0.48 percent, or 33.42 points, to 6,937.21.

BDO Unibank gained 0.11 percent to 92 pesos while Alliance Global Group rose 0.34 percent to 29.80 pesos.

-- Bangkok gained 0.67 percent, or 10.09 points, to 1,518.01.

Property developer Pruksa Real Estate soared 6.20 percent to 34.25 baht, while hospitality company Minor International rose 3.97 percent to 32.75 baht.

-- Singapore eased 0.18 percent, or 5.96 points, to 3,269.50.

Oil rig maker Keppel Corp rose 0.09 percent to Sg$10.76 while DBS Bank was down 0.24 percent to Sg$16.97.

-- Kuala Lumpur ended flat at 1,892.62.

SapuraKencana Petroleum added 0.2 percent to 4.40 ringgit, while Telekom Malaysia lost 0.9 percent to 6.36 ringgit.

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