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Asian markets rise ahead of Yellen's testimony

Asia's markets edged up on Tuesday, with investors sitting on the sidelines as they await the first testimony by the Federal Reserve's new head to discover her plans for its stimulus programme.

HONG KONG: Asia's markets edged up on Tuesday, with investors sitting on the sidelines as they await the first testimony by the Federal Reserve's new head to discover her plans for its stimulus programme.

Janet Yellen, who took over as the bank's chair at the start of the month, will testify to a House of Representatives committee later in the day on the state of the economy and the course of monetary policy.

Sydney rose 0.62 percent, or 32.4 points, to close at 5,254.5 and Seoul added 0.46 percent, or 8.76 points, to 1,932.06.

Hong Kong jumped 1.78 percent, or 383.72 points, to 21,962.98 and Shanghai rose 0.84 percent, or 17.60 points, to 2,103.67.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

The latest gains indicate traders' nerves may have settled after the turmoil seen earlier February when the Fed said it would further reduce its bond-buying scheme and US and Chinese manufacturing data came in below forecast.

Markets brushed off a second straight set of poor jobs data Friday, with some blaming severe winter weather for the weak growth, while also pointing to positive news such as a rise in labour force participation.

Yellen's testimony will be pored over to see if she gives any indication that the central bank will slow down its stimulus tapering. In December the Fed said it would cut its monthly purchases by $10 billion to $65 billion. It then announced a similar move this month, sending markets spinning.

Credit Agricole said investors would be keen to see if she maintains a doveish bias on the drawdown, against the backdrop of a more hawkish policy-making committee in the Fed.

"While we do not expect any major deviations from the Fed's current outlook, her interpretation of the recent softening in US data will be an important driver for markets," it said.

"Against this backdrop, the extent she views the recent soft patch in data as a function of weather-related effects (and other seasonal distortions) could support policy normalisation," it said.

Wall Street provided a positive lead for Asia. The Dow edged up 0.05 percent Monday, the S&P 500 gained 0.16 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.54 percent.

In forex trade the euro ticked up to $1.3659 and 139.69 yen compared with $1.3642 and 139.46 yen in New York.

The dollar was at 102.25 yen against 102.18 yen.

Oil prices were mixed. New York's main futures contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in March, was down six cents to $100.00 a barrel in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude for March delivery was up two cents to $108.65.

Gold fetched $1,283.49 an ounce at 1040 GMT compared with $1,272.60 late Monday.

In other markets:

-- Mumbai rose 0.14 percent, or 29.10 points, to end at 20,363.37 points.

Bharat Forge rose 5.85 percent to 367.55 rupees a shares and Jaiprakash Power Ventures rose 5.54 percent to 14.48 rupees.

-- Bangkok added 0.43 percent or 5.59 points to 1,296.25.

Oil company Bangchak Petroleum gained 2.70 percent to 28.50 baht, while Bangkok Bank rose 2.02 percent to 176.50 baht.

-- Jakarta closed up 0.44 percent, or 19.44 points, at 4,470.19.

State miner Aneka Tambang rose 2.46 percent to 1,040 rupiah, while telecommunications provider Telekomunikasi Indonesia fell 0.87 percent to 2,275 rupiah.

-- Singapore closed up 0.39 percent, or 11.90 points, at 3,029.10.

Agribusiness company Wilmar International rose 0.62 percent to Sg$3.27 while real estate developer Capitaland was up 1.41 percent to Sg$2.88.

-- Kuala Lumpur's rose 8.03 points, or 0.44 percent, to close at 1,824.17.

Financial firm CIMB added 1.1 percent to 7.23 ringgit, while Axiata Group gained 0.9 percent to 6.56. Shipping company MISC lost 2.1 percent to 6.10 ringgit.

-- Taipei rose 0.46 percent, or 38.61 points, to 8,430.56.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co added 1.46 percent to Tw$104.5 while leading chip design house MediaTek was 2.20 percent higher at Tw$419.0.

-- Wellington rose 0.33 percent, or 15.83 points, to 4,848.88.

Fletcher Building was up 1.89 percent at NZ$9.15 and Telecom gained 0.63 percent to NZ$2.39.

-- Manila was 1.06 percent higher, adding 63.78 points to 6,106.03.

Bank of the Philippine Islands rose 0.23 percent to 87.60 pesos, SM Investments added 0.79 percent to 700.50 pesos and BDO Unibank gained 1.14 percent to 79.90 pesos.

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