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Chip Stocks Give Asian Markets a Boost

Asian markets rose Wednesday, helped by gains on Wall Street Tuesday and sharp gains in semiconductor stocks across the region, boosted by hopes the sector's chronic supply glut would ease after German chipmaker Qimonda filed for insolvency.

The U.S. dollar edged up 0.1 percent to 89.09 yen as gains in stock markets prompted investors to dump the safe-haven Japanese currency, while the dollar dipped versus the euro as players awaited outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting. Oil futures are currently trading at $42 a barrel in the Asian session.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average edged up 0.6 percent in choppy trade as Tokyo Electron and other high-tech firms climbed amid rising expectations after the U.S. stimulus package was expanded. Banks rose on spillover sentiment from gains by their U.S.
peers, though Nomura Holdings, Japan's largest brokerage, fell after posting a record $3.8 billion yen quarterly loss, hit by the cost of integrating operations from its acquisition in investment bank Lehman Brothers, soured trades and its exposure to Iceland and alleged swindler Bernard Madoff.

Seoul shares closed almost 6 percent higher, posting their biggest daily percentage gain in seven weeks, as Samsung Electronics led tech shares higher and banks rallied after their
U.S. peers' gains overnight. Samsung ended 10.52 percent higher, its biggest one-day percentage jump since late October 2008, after German rival Qimonda filed for bankruptcy last Friday. Hynix Semiconductor rose by the daily limit of 15 percent. KB Financial Group, the holding firm of the country's largest commercial lender Kookmin Bank, climbed nearly 11 percent.

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Australian shares gained 1.5 percent, boosted by banks, though top property stock Westfield Group and building materials group Boral slid on profit warnings.

Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 4.8 percent led by financials such as DBS Group, up 7.3 percent.

Markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai are closed for the Lunar New Year holidays.