Asian shares rise on hopes for debt ceiling deal

PHOTO: Asian shares rise on hopes for debt ceiling deal

HONG KONG - Asian markets rallied Friday on hopes the US will avoid a default as President Barack Obama and Republican leaders held their first talks on resolving a budget impasse that triggered a partial government shutdown.

The gains followed Wall Street's best day since January as dealers welcomed progress on ending the crisis with less than a week before Washington runs out of cash to pay its bills.

Tokyo rose 1.48 per cent, or 210.03 points, to 14,404.74, Sydney climbed 1.63 per cent, or 83.8 points, to 5,230.9, while Seoul was 1.17 per cent higher, adding 23.50 points to 2,024.90.

Shanghai was up 1.70 per cent, or 37.22 points, at 2,228.15 and Hong Kong advanced 1.16 per cent, or 267.02 points, to 23,218.32.

After 10 days of deadlock Republicans proposed to extend the US borrowing limit for six weeks in return for an agreement by Obama to negotiate on a budget that would restart federal operations.

The White House said Obama would be open to a short-term debt ceiling hike. Following 90 minutes of talks at the White House, Republican second-in-command Eric Cantor offered an upbeat report, despite no deal yet being struck, telling reporters: "It was a very useful meeting, we had a constructive conversation."

He said both sides would consult aides and continue discussions later on Thursday.

While a deal to raise borrowing would postpone a devastating default - which economists warn would likely spark another global recession - it would not end the government shutdown, which began on October 1.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, said the developments suggest "both sides appreciate the gravity of a default".

He added: "It's not worth sending our country into a tailspin over ideological differences. I think investors are breathing a sigh of relief."

Thursday's events helped Wall Street shares enjoy their best day since the beginning of the year, when lawmakers agreed a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and government spending cuts.

The Dow surged 2.18 per cent to 15,126.07, just below its level on the eve of the October 1 shutdown. The S&P 500 jumped 2.18 per cent and the Nasdaq added 2.26 per cent.

And in currency trade the dollar edged back up against the yen after falling to six-week lows earlier in the week.

The greenback bought 98.30 yen in afternoon trade, up from 97.91 yen (S$1.244) in New York late Tuesday.

The euro bought $1.3559 (S$2.29) and 133.31 yen against $1.3526 and 132.58 yen. On oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in November, was down 27 cents at $102.74 in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for November eased 26 cents to $111.54.

Gold cost $1,290.30 at 0800 GMT compared with $1,301.79 on Thursday.

In other markets:

- Taipei was flat, edging up 4.64 points to 8,349.37.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 1.43 per cent higher at Tw$106.5 ($4.526) while Hon Hai fell 0.13 per cent to Tw$75.4.

- Wellington rose 0.50 per cent, or 23.39 points, to 4,740.77. Fletcher Building was up 0.42 per cent at NZ$9.46 (S$9.78), Air New Zealand added 0.68 per cent to NZ$1.49, and Telecom climbed 0.66 per cent to NZ$2.30.

- Manila closed 0.84 per cent higher, adding 53.83 points to 6,489.80. Metropolitan Bank was up 1.76 per cent at 86.85 pesos and Universal Robina rose 0.17 per cent to 121 pesos, while SM Investments added 1.38 per cent to 847 pesos.