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Asia Stocks Up Amid Optimism Over US Budget

PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ World stock markets rose Monday, registering optimism after negotiations late last week between President Barack Obama and leaders of Congress raised hopes the U.S. would avoid its "fiscal cliff" before the end-of-the-year deadline.

Obama met with the top leaders of the House and Senate on Friday to discuss ways to avert a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 in the absence of intervening action. U.S. lawmakers have said a budget deal before Christmas is possible.

Economists have been warning of the consequences if no action is taken. The spending cuts and higher taxes â¿¿ plus the expiration of extended unemployment benefits â¿¿ would mean that $671 billion is sliced out of the American economy next year. That's enough to throw the world's biggest economy into a recession.

European stocks were mostly higher in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent to 5,654.78. But Germany's DAX gained 1 percent to 7,0167.87. France's CAC-40 advanced 1 percent to 3,374.21.

Wall Street was set for a higher open. Dow Jones industrial futures rose 0.3 percent to 12,602. S&P 500 futures gained 0.3 percent to 1,363.80.

Investors looking for good deals following a global stock market slump that occurred in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election helped push Asian stock markets higher.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 21,262.06 and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.9 percent to 1,878.10. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 4,361.40. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.1 percent to 2,016.98. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose marginally to 800.84.

"Because Hong Kong dropped for two weeks, maybe there is some bargain hunting," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. He said that the budget negotiations in the U.S. are occupying the spotlight in the near term, but the ultimate issue is the state of the global economy.

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