TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher in early Wednesday trading, cheered by diminished prospects that U.S. interest rates would be raised soon.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 percent in morning trading to 18,628.98. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.3 percent to 5,944.70. Hong Kong Hang Seng was little changed, inching up 0.01 percent to 24,752.20, while South Korea's Kospi added 0.8 percent to 1,990.92.
WALL STREET MILESTONES: The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index delivered new highs. The Dow ended up 92.35 points, or 0.5 percent, at 18,209.19. That's up 0.4 percent from its most-recent high of 18,140.44 last Friday. The S&P 500 gained 5.82 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,115.48. The index also reached its previous high of 2,110.30 on Friday. The Nasdaq gained 7.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,968.12, finishing higher for the 10th day straight.
FED FACTOR: Global markets were cheered by comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who told Congress the central bank would be patient about raising interest rates because the job market is still healing and inflation is too low. Lower interest rates make borrowing easier and tend to be a plus for markets.
ANALYST TAKE: "Yellen painted an optimistic view of the U.S. economy overall, pointing to improvement in the labor market," according to the daily market report by the Singapore branch of Mizuho Bank.
GREECE FACTOR: Progress in Greece's efforts to secure an extension of its rescue program added to the optimism. Athens and its bailout creditors reached a tentative agreement last week to continue a rescue loan program by four months to avoid the risk of a Greek default. On Tuesday, European creditors approved a four-month extension to the nation's financial bailout, sending stock indexes in Europe higher.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 2 cents to $49.26 after falling for the fifth day in a row on expectations of rising inventories in the U.S. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 20 cents to $58.86 in London.
CURRENCIES: The U.S. dollar was trading at 118.69 yen, down from 118.75 yen. The euro cost $1.1346, almost unchanged from the previous day.
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