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Asian Markets Gain as Obama Win Ends Uncertainty

Asian shares hit a three-week high Wednesday and the U.S. dollar extended gains after Barack Obama became the next U.S. president, ending uncertainty about who will lead the world's largest economy in the midst of great financial peril.

The new Obama administration, which takes office in January, will face the world's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and a potentially steep slowdown in the global economy that has pounded markets from Tokyo to Frankfurt to New York.

Unprecedented measures to rescue banks across the world, aggressive rate cuts by central banks, and the improvements in credit markets have in the last week given global markets a respite from a thrashing, but some still urged caution.

The dollar advanced following Obama's election, recovering some of the prior days losses that saw the currency suffer its biggest one-day slide in 13 years when investors went searching for higher yielding currencies.

The dollar index was up against a basket of major currencies. The euro hit was weaker against the dollar. The greenback dipped against the yen . Oil fell below $70 a barrel as investors took profits after prices leapt 10 percent in the previous session following signs that Saudia Arabia and other OPEC members had made promised cuts in crude production.

The Nikkei 225 Average rose 4.5 percent to a three-week closing high, buoyed by rises in Honda Motor and other exporters. The Nikkei briefly pared gains after Obama's victory, which market players said was due mainly to the market having exhausted a major trading factor, but then climbed again in the final hour of trade. Banks and trading firms were also strong.

South Korea's KOSPI ended 2.4 percent higher, halving earlier 5 percent gains after a Democrat win the U.S. presidential election as investors looked ahead to Korean/U.S. trade issues under President Barack Obama. The KOSPI is still up 32 percent from the October 27 low of 892.16 points, posting its fifth straight closing gain after October's traumatic losses.

Australian shares rose 2.9 percent to their highest close in one month, as strong gains in metal prices lifted commodity stocks such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Australia slashed economic growth and budget surplus forecastsdue to the global financial crisis, and predicted a rising jobless rate. Treasurer Wayne Swan said the budget surplus for the year to end-June 2009 was now projected to be just A$5.4 billion ($3.8 billion) in 2008/09, down from a forecast of A$21.7 billion in the May budget.

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Hong Kong shares closed more than 3 percent up after having jumped 5.7 percent, led by banking stocks, in what many market watchers consider a short-term relief rally after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election. Chinese financial stocks such as Construction Bank gained for a third straight day, while energy stocks such as PetroChina climbed after a surge in crude oil prices. Shares in PCCW soared 29 percent in their biggest one-day percentage gain in nine years. The stock resumed trading after tycoon Richard Li led a $2 billion buyout offer by major shareholders in the city's dominant fixed-line operator.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed up more than 2 percent helped by gains in regional markets and overnight gains on Wall Street. Property stocks such as CapitaLand, City Developments and Keppel Land buoyed the index.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose more than 3 percent in active trade, led by banks and resource shares, as Asian markets hit their highest in three weeks. Bank shares led the gains, with Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the country's biggest bank, climbing 4.61 percent. Merchants Bank surged 10 percent.