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Asian markets rise on Yellen's remarks, debt ceiling vote

Asian markets climbed on Wednesday after the new US Federal Reserve chief said she would stick with its stimulus policy, while lawmakers agreed to raise the debt ceiling and avert another stand-off.

HONG KONG: Asian markets climbed on Wednesday after the new US Federal Reserve chief said she would stick with its stimulus policy, while lawmakers agreed to raise the debt ceiling and avert another stand-off.

Wall Street rallied for a fourth straight session after Janet Yellen told Congress she expects to continue predecessor Ben Bernanke's plan to wind down its bond-buying gradually and keep interest rates low until the jobs market improves significantly.

Tokyo climbed 0.56 percent, or 81.72 points, to 14,800.06, Sydney jumped 1.06 percent, or 55.6 points, to close at 5,310.1 and Seoul added 0.20 percent, or 3.78 points, to 1,935.84.

Hong Kong jumped 1.47 percent, or 322.81 points to end at 22,285.79 and Shanghai added 0.30 percent, or 6.29 points, to 2,109.96.

Investors were buoyed by Chinese data showing a better-than-forecast jump in exports in January.

In her first testimony since taking the Fed chair on February 1, Yellen said the world's number one economy is expected to grow this year and next at a moderate pace, despite some recent poor data that has sparked fears of a slowdown.

Investors were reassured by her comments following turmoil on global markets earlier this month.

The markets had feared a flight of capital from emerging economies, after the Fed's policy board said it would reduce its stimulus by $10 billion a month beginning February to $65 billion - following a similar move at its previous meeting.

Yellen said that when the Federal Open Market Committee meets again in March it could consider a pause to the taper if economic conditions show a significant deterioration.

"Yellen hit just the right note with the market, reassuring that there would be no major break with the existing policy, while remaining somewhat cautious," said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.

On Wall Street Tuesday the Dow jumped 1.22 percent, the S&P 500 put on 1.11 percent and the Nasdaq added 1.03 percent.

Adding to the upbeat mood was news that Republicans in the House of Representatives had backed off another showdown and waved through a bill to increase the government's debt limit until March 2015 with no strings attached.

With the bill likely to pass the Democrat-heavy Senate, the move means Washington will avoid the partisan stand-off that has twice threatened to leave the US unable to pay its bills, hammering world markets.

Vice President Joe Biden described the news as "a victory for the country".

In China, official data showed the trade surplus rose 14.0 percent year-on-year in January to $31.86 billion, rebounding from a decline the previous month.

The growth came thanks to a 10.6 percent surge in exports to $207.13 billion. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had tipped growth of 0.1 percent. And imports rose 10 percent, better than the 3.0 percent expected.

"These are very strong figures, mainly reflecting the recovery of developed nations, especially Europe, with exports to the European Union up more than 10 percent," Shen Jianguang, an economist at brokerage Mizuho Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The dollar rallied in New York after Tuesday's positive news, sitting at 102.64 yen in late trade.

However, in the afternoon on Wednesday the greenback bought 102.53 yen. The euro fetched $1.3639 and 139.81 yen in Tokyo against $1.3638 and 139.99 yen in US deals.

On oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for March delivery, rose 58 cents to $100.53 in afternoon trade. Brent North Sea crude, also for March, climbed four cents to $108.72.

Gold fetched $1,287.00 an ounce at 0800 GMT compared with $1,283.49 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei added 0.95 percent, or 80.31 points, to 8,510.87.

Smartphone maker HTC fell 0.38 percent to Tw$129.5 while Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co rose 0.48 percent to Tw$105.0.

-- Wellington gained 0.43 percent, or 21.09 points, to end at 4,869.97.

Trade Me was up 1.85 percent at NZ$3.86, Fletcher Building rose 2.84 percent to NZ$9.41 and Air New Zealand was down 0.63 percent at NZ$1.695.

-- Manila rose 0.10 percent, or 6.28 points, to 6,112.31.

SM Investments rose 0.36 percent to 703.00 pesos, Megaworld was 3.46 percent up at 3.89 pesos and Metropolitan Bank added 1.39 percent to 80.00 pesos.

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