US elections: Asian shares rise

Asian stock markets reversed early losses to move higher Wednesday after President Barack Obama won a fiercely contested race for re-election.

Stock markets had been in a state of suspended animation throughout the week as investors waited for the cliffhanger election to end. Now, with the Republican challenger Mitt Romney defeated, politicians in the world's biggest economy can refocus on issues other than the campaign.

One of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. is the looming ``fiscal cliff,'' a combination of higher taxes and government spending cuts that automatically takes effect unless Congress acts by Jan. 1.

Economists have warned that if this so-called fiscal cliff is not avoided, the adverse effects could push the U.S. economy back into recession. Deciding the election is the first step toward a resolution.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, bobbling between gains and losses, rose less than 0.1 percent to 8,976.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 22,010.27. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.2 percent to 1,933.52. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7 percent to 4,516.50. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, mainland China and Taiwan also rose. Stocks in the Philippines fell.

The race's results assured not only Obama of a job for the next four years. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke appears set to hold onto his job for another term. Romney, who disapproved of Bernanke's bond-buying programs to stimulate the U.S. economy, had said he would not reappoint him to another term to lead the Fed.

Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said an Obama victory means an extension of the status quo.

``Nothing will change. We will have ultra-low interest rates, a $1 trillion deficit, and quantitative easing,'' Lun said. ``Bernanke will keep his job as Fed chairman. As for the fiscal cliff, the president will do something to minimize the effect of tax increases and spending cuts.''

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