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Asia Stocks Gain On Upbeat U.S. Growth Data

Asian shares rose on Thursday, led by exporters such as Honda and Samsung and resource stocks, after upbeat U.S. growth data eased worries about the health of the economy in Asia's biggest export market.

The dollar slipped a little, trimming gains made after Wednesday's U.S. GDP numbers dampened market expectations that the Federal Reserve could cut interest rates early next year.

The data showed the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annualised rate during the third quarter, faster than the 1.6 percent pace first estimated and above Wall Street's expectations for a 1.8 percent gain.

Japan's Nikkei rose to its highest close in more than two weeks. South Korean stocks hit a six-month closing high and Taiwan shares notched up their highest close in more than six years, while Singapore's benchmark index was on course for a record close and a regional share index hit a lifetime peak.

"Globally, the recent economic data is coming out positive, so corporate earnings should improve," said Park Suk-hyun, a strategist at Kyobo Securities in South Korea.

Financial bookmakers in London called the FTSE 100 share index to open 7 to 8 points higher.

Shares in firms with substantial U.S. sales gained. Japanese car maker Honda Motor Co. Ltd. rose 2.2% and rival Toyota Motor Corp. gained 1.3%.

In Seoul, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. rose 1.4% and flat screen maker LG.Philips LCD gained 1.1%.

Resource and energy stocks were also stronger as precious metals prices firmed and after oil rose above $62 a barrel to the highest in nearly two months on an unexpected decline in U.S. winter fuel stocks.

PetroChina rose 3.3% in Hong Kong, while Australia's Woodside Petroleum rose 2.9% and global miner BHP Billiton firmed 1.5%.

"Resource stocks have underperformed in the past few months as commodity prices levelled from their peaks," said Steve Robinson, a portfolio manager with Alleron Investment Management. "But when you look around, some of these stocks offer good value compared to the rest of the market."

HEAT STILL ON DOLLAR?

U.S. stocks gained on Wednesday on the GDP figures and as oil prices lifted oil majors such as Exxon Mobil Corp.

The economic data also boosted the dollar, which had hit a series of 20-month lows against the euro and two-year lows to the pound this week on prospects for a narrowing of the dollar's yield advantage over other major currencies.

But some said the respite for the U.S. currency was only temporary.

"There was no real strong correction in the dollar weakness," said the chief trader at a European investment bank in Tokyo. "It's not that the heat is off, but that the market is accepting what's really going to happen -- that the Europeans are going to have higher interest rates in December."

The dollar bought around 116.15 yen at 0610 GMT, down a little from late New York levels but above a three-month low at 115.40 struck at the start of the week.

The euro firmed slightly to $1.3170, still below a 20-month high of $1.3218 reached on Wednesday.

Japanese government bond futures climbed back towards a two-month high, but trading remained cautious ahead of inflation data on Friday which could offer more clues on when the Bank of Japan will raise interest rates.

"Both bears and bulls find it difficult to place their bets ahead of CPI data," said Makoto Yamashita, chief JGB strategist at Lehman Brothers.

December futures rose 0.34 point to 135.09 towards a two-month high of 135.20 struck on Monday. The 10-year yield fell 3.5 basis points to 1.645% matching a two-month low struck on Tuesday.

Tokyo's Nikkei rose 1.2%, while MSCI's broadest index of shares elsewhere in Asia was up 1% by 0610 GMT, near an all-time high hit earlier.

Seoul's benchmark index rose 0.7%, Taiwan's benchmark index rose 1.3% and Australia's S&P ASX 200 ended 0.5% higher.

Singapore's Straits Times and Hong Kong's Hang Seng were both up around 1% by their midsession breaks.

U.S. oil futures dipped, but still remained near a two-month high after weekly U.S. inventory data showed a surprise decline in heating fuel stocks in the world's biggest consumer.

NYMEX crude for January delivery fell 10 cents to $62.36 a barrel.

Gold traded around $636.50 an ounce, up slightly from late New York levels.

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