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Asian stocks higher as dollar gains, stimulus hopes in Europe

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SEOUL, South Korea - Asian stock markets rose Wednesday, lifted by new signs of strength in the U.S. economy and expectations that Europe's central bank will provide more support to the flagging region.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 per cent to 15,798.52 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 1 per cent to 24,990.16. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.1 per cent at 5,663.10 while South Korea's Kospi was little changed. Stock markets in mainland China and Southeast Asia also rose.

SUPPORTING EUROPE: Expectations are high that the European Central Bank will take additional measures to prevent Europe from falling into deflation when policymakers meet on Thursday. Analysts said even if this week's meeting does not result in stimulus measures, investors will continue to anticipate support from the bank in the coming months.

SOLID US: On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, said its gauge of manufacturing reached a three-year high in August, boosted by new orders for goods and increased production. Investors, however, are more interested in clues about when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. Later on Wednesday, the Fed will issue its latest Beige Book survey covering economic conditions around the country through late August.

THE QUOTE: "Growth is strong enough to end the asset purchase program in the U.S., and for the Fed to consider raising interest rates. The opposite is true in the Eurozone, where the central bank is considering additional stimulus measures to boost the economy," said Desmond Chua, a market analyst at CMC Markets.

SAMSUNG SLIDE: Samsung announces new smartphones later Wednesday in Berlin, New York and Beijing that are crucial to reverse dwindling profit from its handset business. But investors don't seem to be expecting a game changer, with Samsung shares dropping as much as 1.2 per cent after closing at two-year low on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Apple Inc.'s shares set a record-high on Wall Street, up 0.8 per cent, one week ahead of its expected new iPhone announcement.

WALL STREET: The S&P 500 slipped less than 0.1 per cent to 2,002.28 on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 per cent to 17,067.56. Market gauges that give greater weight to smaller companies fared better. The Nasdaq rose 0.4 per cent to 4,598.19.

CURRENCIES: With solid growth in the U.S. economy and expectations of a rate hike in coming months, the dollar gained against major currencies. The euro fell to $1.3124 from $1.3135. The dollar gained to 105.19 yen from 105.16 yen.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was up 43 cents at $93.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It slumped more than $3 on Tuesday, closing at $92.88.

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