Asia stocks jump on Bernanke remarks
BANGKOK—Asian stock markets rose Tuesday after comments by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke suggested he thinks more needs to be done to help spur the U.S. economy.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.8 percent to 10,193.43, after briefly touching 10,203.97 -- its highest intraday level in more than eight months.
South Korea's Kospi rose 0.7 percent to 2,032.47 with heavy industrial shares helping to push the benchmark higher. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.4 percent to 20,950.47 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9 percent to 4,299.30.
Bernanke told an audience at the National Association for Business Economics that the U.S. job market was still weak despite recent signs of improvement. That could mean he believes the Fed needs to continue to prop up the economy by keeping short-term interest rates near zero and perhaps by buying more bonds later.
The Fed has embarked on two previous rounds of bond-buying, most recently in late 2010. The idea is to drive down long-term interest rates and encourage investors to buy stocks. The second round ignited a 28 percent Wall Street rally in eight months.
Sentiment was also boosted by speculation that Germany would be willing to agree to an increase in Europe's bailout fund to (EURO)700 billion ($930 billion). Germany has to date resisted calls to increase the lending capacity of the fund beyond the planned (EURO)500 billion -- despite uncertainty over the ability of Rome and Madrid to repay their debts.
On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 160.90 points to 13,241.63, its third-best showing this year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19.40 points to 1,416.51, its highest close since May 2008.
The Nasdaq composite index climbed 54.65 points to 3,122.57, its best finish since November 2000.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 3 cents to $107.06 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract up 16 cents to settle at $107.03 per barrel in New York on Monday.
In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3353 from $1.3343 late Monday in New York. The dollar was nearly unchanged at 82.83.