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Asian markets, euro gain on hopes for ECB action

HONG KONG--Asian markets and the euro rose on Thursday ahead of a European Central Bank meeting that many expect will see the restart of a sovereign bond-buying program aimed at easing the eurozone debt crisis.

Tokyo edged up 0.01 percent, or 0.75 points, to 8,680.57 while Seoul advanced 0.38 percent, or 7.21 points, to close at 1,881.24.

Sydney rose 0.80 percent, or 34.1 points, to finish at 4,312.9 after Qantas Airways jumped 6.67 percent at AU$1.20 on an announcement it has tied up with Emirates Airlines as part of a global alliance to turn around its international arm.

Hong Kong was 0.34 percent, or 64.23 points, higher at 19,209.30 and Shanghai climbed 0.70 percent, or 14.24 points, to 2,051.92.

The gains were also helped by bargain-hunting after two days of losses caused by another batch of weak manufacturing data that fuelled concerns over the global economy.

Investors have become increasingly confident that the ECB will announce plans to buy up the debt of under-pressure countries that have seen their borrowing costs soar to dangerous levels.

Bank chief Mario Draghi raised hopes in July by saying it would do whatever was needed to save the euro, and expectations were raised further this week when European lawmakers said he had hinted at buying short-term debt on the secondary market.

Such a move in the past was justified to help stabilize and protect the 17-nation eurozone, he said, according to the politicians.

And on Wednesday media reports said the ECB planned to re-enter sovereign debt markets with unlimited bond purchases.

However, Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires that traders would remain edgy until after the ECB meeting later Thursday.

“It will be more of the same as in recent sessions — small net market movements, reduced volatility, with some bargain-buying in oversold issues, as well as some added buying in euro-exposed issues,” he said.

“The ECB meeting is the main focus, however, and trading will be thin until more is known about the implications” of the central bank's policy stance.

On Wall Street, the three main indexes closed mixed. The Dow edged up 0.09 percent, the S&P 500 eased 0.11 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq fell 0.19 percent.

Gold was at US$1,708.24 at 1045 GMT compared with US$1,691.51 on Wednesday.

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