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Asian stocks make tentative gains

Asian stocks markets have mostly posted tentative gains following a mixed bag of US and European economic reports and as oil prices rose to a new nine-month high.

Crude climbed above 108 US dollars a barrel and the dollar weakened against the euro but rose against the yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 climbed 0.2% to 9,611.72 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.4% to 2,015.93. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 0.1% to 21,359.95.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 0.4% higher at 4,303.90 and mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.3% to 2,417.15.

Some markets swung back and forth between positive and negative territory in early trading.

Asian investors were cautious even after US stocks climbed following a report that said jobless aid applications fell to a four-year low helped.

Offsetting the optimism was a European Commission forecast that the combined economies of the 17 nations that use the euro would shrink in 2012, raising concerns that austerity programs are holding back growth.

Poor economic growth in Europe would also hurt demand for goods manufactured in Asia.

Another report said German business confidence rose in February for a fourth straight month, but some analysts noted that the report also highlighted disparities in growth across Europe.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average finished 0.4% higher at 12,984.69 and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.4% to close at 1,363.46. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 0.8% to 2,956.98.

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