Asia up as Wall Street extends record rise, dollar steady

TOKYO, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Asian stocks edged up on Wednesday, joining a record-setting night for world markets as investors cheered upbeat factory activity in Europe and solid earnings on Wall Street.

The dollar was steady after hawkish comments from top Federal Reserve officials bolstered expectations the world’s no. 1 economy was strong enough to keep policymakers on course to further raise rates this year.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.1 percent, taking its cues from the world stock index rising to an all-time peak of 446.21 overnight.

Japan’s Nikkei and South Korea’s Kospi each added 0.15 percent.

The Dow rose 0.6 percent on Tuesday to notch a record closing high for the eighth straight session, lifted by strong earnings reports from Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

That followed a strong showing in European equities, which were boosted by upbeat German and French factory activity data, with Germany’s DAX rising to its highest in nearly two years.

"U.S. stock markets are currently a great example of the old trading adage that the trend is your friend," wrote Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

"The slide in the euro as Marie Le Penn’s polls improve was the other key feature of international markets last night and is an early indicator that French elections could loom larger on the market radar over coming weeks."

The euro hovered near $1.0526, the low from the previous day when it lost more than 0.7 percent.

While the European political concerns remain a drag on the euro, the dollar received a further boost following hawkish comments from Cleveland and Philadelphia Fed Presidents Loretta Mester and Patrick Harker.





Mester expressed comfort at raising rates at this point, while Harker reportedly said a March rate hike was on the table.

The financial markets are waiting on the Fed’s Jan. 31-Feb. 1 policy meeting minutes due later in the day for fresh hints on the central bank’s stance towards interest rates.

The dollar was steady at 113.660 yen after climbing 0.5 percent overnight to a five-day high of 113.780. The greenback’s index against a basket of major currencies was a shade higher at 101.400 after gaining 0.5 percent the previous day.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars were flat at $0.7676 and $0.7163, respectively.

In commodities, crude extended gains from the previous day when it touched 1-1/2-month peaks on OPEC’s optimism for greater compliance with its deal with other producers including Russia to curb output.

U.S. crude rose 0.1 percent to $54.38 a barrel.

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