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Asian stock markets up as Federal Reserve survey shows US economy improved in 2012


A man walks past an electric stock price indicator in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Japan’s benchmark index toppled off a 32-month high Wednesday after its currency’s downward slide went into reverse. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

BANGKOK - Asian stock markets rose Thursday after a Federal Reserve survey found the U.S. economy improved in 2012 and earnings from a handful of big banks far exceeded expectations.

The report, known as the Beige Book, reports on the economic conditions of the Fed's regional banking districts. The Fed said Wednesday that 12 of its districts reported "modest or moderate" growth in the final weeks of 2012.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.2 per cent to 10,619.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1 per cent to 23,383.08 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.9 per cent to 4,781.60. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 per cent to 1,971.81.

Analysts also took note of the mild inflation rate in the U.S., which makes it easier for the Fed to continue with its efforts to accelerate the economy. If the Fed were worried that prices are rising too fast, it might have to raise interest rates. Consumer prices rose only 1.7 per cent in 2012, down from 3 per cent in 2011, the government reported Wednesday.

The numbers were in line with the Fed's forecasts that inflation would remain a little below target, leaving it free to focus on the other half of its dual mandate to reduce unemployment through monetary stimulus, said Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics in a market commentary.

The Fed also said U.S. factory production rose in December for the second straight month, buoyed by more output of autos, electronics and business equipment.

On the corporate front, net income from JPMorgan Chase, the country's largest bank, soared 55 per cent from a year earlier while Goldman Sachs' earnings nearly tripled. EBay Inc.'s fourth-quarter earnings also topped analyst projections as bargain-hunting holiday shoppers flocked to its Internet shopping mall and digital payment service.

But problems for Boeing's 787 new "Dreamliner" overshadowed buoyant earnings reports, sending the aircraft maker's stock down sharply and taking the Dow with it.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2 per cent to close at 13,511.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose less than 0.1 per cent to 1,472.63. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.2 per cent to 3,117.54.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 12 cents to $94.11 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 96 cents to close at $94.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3300 from $1.3286 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 88.53 yen from 88.49 yen.

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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson


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