Asian shares rise

Asian shares were mostly higher Tuesday after Intel’s decision to increase its dividend boosted Wall Street. Gains were limited by Chinese shares, which dropped on continued fears of new moves to cool economic growth.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average added 1.2 percent to 10,464.27 after the Bank of Japan kept its key interest rate unchanged at virtually zero, hoping to protect a still-fragile economy from veering off track.

Exporters rose as Wall Street optimism offset a stronger yen. Sony Corp. jumped 2.9 percent, and Canon Inc. gained 1.5 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.5 percent to 23,918.24 and South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.9 percent to 2,100.55.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.5 percent at 4,809.20. Sentiment was bolstered by the country’s latest inflation reading, which fell below expectations and reduced the chances of a rate hike by the Australian central bank.

Benchmarks in Singapore, New Zealand, Taiwan and India also advanced.

Shares in mainland China, however, dropped as investors continued to worry about further attempts by the government to tamp down inflation as it tries to get economic growth under control. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.6 percent to 2,680.71.

The Dow’s rise gave stocks a boost but Chinese shares are “capping Asia momentum,” said Castor Pang, research director at Cinda International.

“The worry is still there in China, especially if they (investors) guess inflation in January and February is still high,” which could mean that authorities may announce an interest rate hike around Chinese New Year, Pang said.

Figures last week showed growth picked up in the fourth quarter, to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in the previous quarter. The government also reported the inflation rate at 4.6 percent in December.

The Chinese central bank’s latest interest rate hike was announced on Christmas Day and many analysts expect more increases this year.

In New York Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed within 20 points of 12,000 Monday, its highest point since June 2008.

Technology stocks rose after Intel Corp. increased its dividend and said it would buy back more of its stock. The company gained 2 percent.

The Dow gained 108.68 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,980.52. The last time the average closed above 12,000 was June 19, 2008.

The broader Standard and Poor’s 500 index rose 7.49, or 0.6 percent, to 1,290.84. The Nasdaq composite gained 28.01, or 1 percent, to 2,717.55.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 82.43 yen from 82.49 yen late Monday. The euro rose to $1.3655 from $1.3638.

Benchmark crude for March delivery fell 22 cents to $87.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.24 to settle at $87.87 Monday after the Saudi oil minister hinted that his county may raise supplies.

Source: AP

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