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Shares mostly higher in Asia following Standard & Poor's 500 index close above 2,000 points

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TOKYO - Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday after the latest record close for the Standard & Poor's 500, though gains were modest and Japan and Hong Kong lost ground after early advances.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 per cent to 15,480.72 by early afternoon and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost a smidgen to 25,067.18. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 per cent to 2,071.53 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was steady at 5,638.10. Benchmarks in mainland China, India, Taiwan and Southeast Asia were higher.

SPILLOVER: The S&P 500's 0.1 per cent gain to a record close of 2,000.02, supported by strong U.S. consumer confidence data, provided upward momentum ahead of the release of key economic data in Japan later this week. The Dow Jones industrial average also closed higher Tuesday, gaining 0.2 per cent to 17,106.70.

ANALYST TAKE: Investors remain cautious over the outlook for China and Japan, the world's second and third-largest economies. "There is more noise about weak lending in August, which would mean the second straight month of poor credit expansion" in China, Dariusz Kowalczyk of Credit Agricole said in a research note. "This bodes ill for third-quarter growth, given that government stimulus is directed mainly through infrastructure spending, which is funded by lending."

EUROPE: Investors took heart from the U.S. gains, moderating geopolitical tensions and dovish comments by the European central bank governor, Mario Draghi, indicating more stimulus is in the pipeline. Germany's DAX rose 0.8 per cent Tuesday and France's CAC-40 added 1.2 per cent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.7 per cent after being closed Monday for a holiday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dropped to 104.01 yen from 104.10 yen late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.3160 from $1.3169.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was up 3 cents at $93.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 51 cents to close at $93.86 on Tuesday.

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