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Asia Stocks Gain After Strong US Earnings

The Fed's statement following a two-day meeting, due after European markets close but bang in the middle of the U.S. trading session, will be closely monitored.

Last month, the Fed said that as long as inflation remained modest, it could keep short-term rates near zero until the unemployment rate dips below 6.5 percent from the current 7.8 percent. That could take until the end of 2015, the Fed said.

The U.S. is at the center of this week's economic news, which culminates Friday with Friday's nonfarm payrolls data for January. Optimism over the U.S. economy has contributed hugely to the stock market rally this year round the world, which has pushed the Dow Jones index up towards its record high.

A report from private payrolls firm ADP did little to alter expectations of the Friday's official report. Though it said a higher than anticipated 192,000 private jobs were created in January, it also revised the December increase to 185,000 from 215,000, meaning the overall increase was more or less in line with expectations.

Despite all the news out of the U.S., the dollar was modestly lower than where it was before the data came out. The euro was 0.5 percent higher at $1.3563 while the dollar rose 0.4 percent to 91.05 yen.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei surged 2.3 percent to 11,113.95, its highest closing since late April 2010, as the yen continued to weaken against the U.S. dollar. The dollar was 0.6 percent higher at 91.34 yen.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 percent to 23,822.06. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 1,964.43 after the government said manufacturing output rose 0.8 percent in December from November.

Oil prices were steady, too, with the benchmark New York rate down 2 cents at $97.55 a barrel.

____

Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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