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updated: 10/31/2012 8:04 AM

Asian markets gain in face of U.S. superstorm

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Associated Press

BEIJING -- Asian markets gained Wednesday after Wall Street stayed closed for a second day as a hurricane ravaged the East Coast of the United States.

Oil edged up in Asian trading but stayed below $86 a barrel as investors waited for U.S. employment data that are expected to show little improvement.

In Tokyo, the regional heavyweight, the benchmark Nikkei 225 was up 0.9 percent at 8,901.37. Hong Kong added 0.6 percent to 21,560.1 while South Korea's Kospi added nearly 0.7 percent to 1,912.91.

Global markets stayed calm despite Hurricane Sandy's disruption of U.S. trading. Losses Monday in Europe were recovered Tuesday.

"While the economic and social cost of the Superstorm will be counted over coming days, markets in general appear to have brushed off their worst fears," said Credit Agricole CIB economist Dariusz Kowalczyk in a report.

The New York Stock Exchange's decision to close Tuesday marks the first time weather has stopped trading for two straight days since 1888. Experts expect storm damage of about $20 billion, about half of that insured.

The NYSE said it would reopen Wednesday using backup generators because power is out in much of downtown Manhattan.

Wall Street experts had feared another delay might lead to a dangerous backlog of customer orders to buy and sell stock. It could have dealt a blow to the image of U.S. markets, already hurt by investor distrust, sudden market swings and a series of trading glitches, including the botched IPO of Facebook.

Elsewhere in Asia, Sydney's S&P ASX 200 gained 0.7 percent to 4,515.9. Taiwan's Taiex was off 0.1 percent at 7,175.17 and Singapore declined 0.1 percent to 3,035.57.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.3 percent at 2,056.95.

On Tuesday, markets in Britain, Germany and France all rose. They were boosted by gains for BP, which announced a big dividend increase, and Swiss bank UBS, which revealed plans to lay off 10,000 staff.

In the United States, investors were looking ahead to Friday's Labor Department release of jobs data that are expected to show little change in payrolls.

"The trend has gone absolutely nowhere since April. Markets expect no change this week," DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a market commentary.

Japan's central bank lowered its economic outlook on Tuesday, saying it expected growth of 1.6 percent in the year ending in March, down from previous forecasts of 2 percent.

"The possibility is increasing that the economy is heading towards a technical recession," said DBS.

Japan's economy has been hobbled by weakness in its export sector, which has been hit hard by a slowdown in demand from recession-mired Europe and a strong yen, which makes Japanese products more expensive abroad.

Investors also were watching China, where a once-a-decade handover of power to younger Communist Party leaders is due to start at a party congress next week.

The dollar shed 0.1 percent to 79.55 yen while the euro lost 0.03 to $1.2963 after a European Commission survey showed economic sentiment fell to a 38-month low.

Benchmark crude oil for December delivery rose 11 cents to $85.78 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 14 cents on Tuesday to $85.68.

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