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Asia stocks rise as banks dodge Greek debt hit

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, before the House Financial Services Committee to deliver the semi-annual monetary policy report. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, before the House Financial Services Committee to deliver the semi-annual monetary policy report. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
By Pamela Sampson
AP Business Writer / March 1, 2012
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BANGKOK—Asian stocks rose Friday as the U.S. jobs market showed new signs of improvement and global banks avoided a hit from Greece's debt crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent to 9,747.80 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1 percent to 21,607.49. South Korea's Kospi added 0.5 percent to 2,041.14. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.3 percent to 4,269.90.

Banks around the world are on the hook for as much as $70 billion in bond insurance payments if Greece defaults on its debt. But a panel ruled that Greece's plan to restructure its debt should not trigger any insurance payments, at least for now.

The panel, which had been convened by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, had been asked by investors to rule whether the plan constituted a so-called credit event. It ruled that the Greek bond deal was still being carried out and did not yet constitute a credit event -- but that the question could come up again.

Meanwhile, in the latest sign of improvement in the U.S. jobs market, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest point since March 2008. The four-week average was also the lowest in four years.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to close at 12,980.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.6 percent to close at 1,374.09. The Nasdaq composite average rose 0.7 percent to 2,988.97.

Benchmark oil for April delivery was up 4 cents to $108.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.77 to finish at $108.84 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3323 from $1.3316 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.18 yen from 81.08 yen.

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