Asian stock markets buoyed by Bernanke testimony

Associated Press
A man watches an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, July 17, 2013. Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday as investors remained cautious ahead of testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. (AP Photo/Azusa Uchikura)

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher Thursday, tracking overnight gains in Europe and Wall Street after U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's suggested stimulus policies may continue for longer than expected.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 percent to 14,733.91 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4,989.20. Shares in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Singapore were also higher.

However, China-related shares were mostly lower, continuing to suffer after China on Monday reported a second straight quarter of slower economic growth.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed early gains to fall into negative territory and then was virtually unchanged by midday, at 21,376.72. Benchmarks in mainland China and Taiwan also were lower. The Shanghai Composite dropped 0.5 percent to 2,034.32.

"The slowdown of growth in China is still the main concern," said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

In prepared remarks to lawmakers in Congress, Bernanke said the Fed's timetable for reducing its bond purchases was not decided and that the U.S. central bank could even boost them if the economy fails to meet expectations.

The Fed wants to see substantial progress in the job market before scaling back its $85 billion a month in purchase of government bonds and other financial assets, he said.

Expectations the Fed might start tapering off its stimulus in September have been cast into doubt by recent disappointing economic data.

Wall Street was reassured by Bernanke's comments and also by stronger than expected earnings reports by big companies such as Bank of America, which reported higher profits in the second quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average was almost flat at 15,470.52 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.3 percent to 1,680.91.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of British shares rose 0.2 percent to close at 6,571.93 and Germany's DAX gained 0.7 percent to 8,254.72. The CAC-40 in France ended 0.6 percent higher at 3,872.02.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 14 cents at $106.34 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 48 cents to settle Wednesday at $106.48.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3092 from $1.3117 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 100.14 yen from 99.62 yen.