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Modest rise for Asian stock markets

Asian stock markets were mostly higher amid signs of a strengthening US economy and a solid earnings season there - along with relief that France will retain its sterling credit rating.

Benchmark oil fell below 102 US dollars per barrel while the dollar rose against the yen and the euro.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.1% at 8,430.99, tracking overnight gains on Wall Street.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained less than 0.1% to 19,020.85. Australia's S&P ASX 200 added 0.9% to 4,187.50.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, and India also rose. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5% at 1,843.12, while mainland China and Indonesia were also lower.

Financial markets were supported by expectations that China will tweak its monetary policy to encourage growth, but in a limited way to prevent inflaming its already sizzling property market.

Andrew Sullivan, principal sales trader at Piper Jaffray in Hong Kong, said he believes a move from monetary authorities could come shortly after Chinese New Year, which begins on January 23 and lasts a week.

"I think we're in a little bit of a wait-and-see period. A lot of larger things are waiting in the wings at the moment," he said.

Commodity prices, which rose on expectations that China's economy will continue to grow this year, helped boost mining and energy shares.

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