Asia stocks pushed higher by new Dow high

BANGKOK (AP) -- The Dow's first close above 16,000 pushed most Asian stocks higher Friday as investors put aside worries the Federal Reserve will cut its monetary stimulus soon.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 0.2 percent to 15,389.37 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 23,685.47. Seoul's Kospi gained 0.4 percent to 2,002.18. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 0.9 percent to 5,335.

Asian and European markets were kept in check earlier this week by Fed minutes suggesting the U.S. central bank will start reducing its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases in coming months.

The super-easy monetary has kept interest rates low to support economic recovery in the U.S. but also propelled money into higher yielding stocks. Frequent shifts in expectations about when the stimulus will be withdrawn have sparked gyrations in markets, up and down.

Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia said the "buoyant" performance of U.S. markets encouraged investors in Asia back into stocks even as the Fed guessing game remains on the radar.

The Dow has been propelled higher by a combination of solid corporate earnings, a steadily strengthening economy and the Fed's monetary policy.

Since the start of the year, the blue chip index is up 22 percent. If it holds onto those gains, the Dow will have its best year since 2003. The Dow topped 14,000 in February and 15,000 in May.

Among other Asian markets, Taiwan and India rose while benchmarks in Southeast Asia fell.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 109.17 points, or 0.7 percent, to close Thursday at 16,009.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,795.85. The Nasdaq composite rose 47.88 points, or 1.2 percent, to 3,969.15.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery was down 35 cents at $95.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.59 to close at $95.44 on Thursday after the U.S. government said monthly unemployment claims fell in a sign of an improving job market.

The euro rose to $1.3475 from $1.3472 late Thursday. The dollar dropped to 101.09 yen from 101.21 yen.