Asia Hits 5-Month High as US Averts 'Cliff' Crisis With Wires

Asian stocks closed nearly two percent higher to hit a five-month high as both houses of Congress passed a bill to end the "fiscal cliff" crisis that threatened a U.S. recession and roiled world financial markets.

The Congress approved extending lower Bush-era tax rates to all but the nation's wealthiest households in a budget deal that stopped automatic implementation of $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.

Markets in Japan, China and New Zealand remain closed on Wednesday for the New Year's holiday.

The index ended 1.2 percent higher.

Australian shares rose 1.2 percent in the first trading session of 2013, the biggest one-day percentage gain in five months as U.S. lawmakers agreed to a budget deal that should keep the world's largest economy out of recession.

The benchmark index ended 1.3 percent higher at 4,708.6 points. That was the highest since June 1, 2011.

Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both had their best close since February. BHP rallied 2 percent to A$37.84 while Rio gained 2.4 percent to A$67.62. Fortescue Metals rallied 6 percent to A$4.92.

Gindalbie Metals rallied 10 percent to A$0.275 after it shipped the first shipment of magnetite concentrate to China from the Karara iron ore project.

2013 Will Bring Gains for Chinese Equities

Hong Kong shares kicked off the first session of the new year by closing at a 19-month high, as investors cheered the passage of a bill in the United States Congress that averted a fiscal crisis and eased worry of a recession in the world's largest economy.

The Hang Seng Index closed up 2.9 percent at 23,312 points, its highest since June 2011. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong ended up 4 percent in its best daily gain in a year.

Counters such as growth-sensitive Chinese metal producers and sports brands that were among the biggest laggards in 2012 were among the biggest percentage gainers on the day. Citic Pacific surged 11.4 percent, while Li Ning soared 11.9 percent and ANTA Sports jumped 8 percent, all in strong volumes.

Chinese financial stocks were among the biggest index boosts after official manufacturing data on Tuesday held steady in December, matching November's seven-month high.

Macau gaming counters extended gains after data at midday showed gambling revenue in Macau hit a record high in December. Sands China jumped 5.3 percent, while Wynn Macau rose 2.9 percent.

Seoul shares reached their highest levels in nearly nine months on the first trading session of 2013, with tech stocks leading the charge as U.S. lawmakers approved a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff."

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed up 1.7 percent at 2,031.10 points, the biggest daily gain since mid-September.

Samsung Electronics, the world's top smartphone maker, rose 3.6 percent, to a lifetime high price of 1.576 million won ($1,500).

Its smartphone and TV rival LG Electronics jumped 5.3 percent on news that the company started taking orders for televisions using next-generation displays.

(Read More: Asia's Stock Rally Could Hit a 'Cliff' in Early 2013)

Shares of POSCO, the world's fourth-biggest steelmaker, ended 3.3 percent higher, hitting a 3-month high after China's upbeat manufacturing data boosted hopes of demand recovery.

Separately, ArcelorMittal will sell a $1.1 billion stake in a Canadian iron ore mine operator to a consortium that includes POSCO and Taiwan-listed China Steel.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index ended 1.1 percent higher while Malaysia's KLCI Composite closed down 0.8 percent.

India's BSE Index finished up 0.6 percent while the 50-share NSE Index rose to a two-year high, ending 0.7 percent higher, and breaching the key psychological level of 6,000 at one point.