A Chinese investor eats lunch as she monitors stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Asian stocks rose Wednesday, tracking gains on Wall Street as investor optimism mounted ahead of a highly anticipated Federal Reserve policy meeting. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

A Chinese investor eats lunch as she monitors stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Asian stocks rose Wednesday, tracking gains on Wall Street as investor optimism mounted ahead of a highly anticipated Federal ... Reserve policy meeting. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) (The Associated Press)

Asian stock markets, currencies higher as investors bet Fed will delay rate hike

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets and currencies were mostly higher Thursday as investors bet the Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates at this week's closely watched meeting.

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KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 advanced 1.2 percent to 18,396.34. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.9 percent to 22,151.59 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 1.3 percent to 5,167.30. Markets in Southeast Asia were also higher. China's Shanghai Composite Index reversed course to gain 0.8 percent to 3,175.81. South Korea's Kospi was flat at 1,974.89. The dollar fell 0.4 percent against the South Korean won and dropped 0.5 percent against Indonesia's rupiah.

HIKE OR NO HIKE: Two months ago, it seemed almost certain that the Fed was going to raise rates in September. Now, after the turmoil in financial markets and concerns about China's economy, there are more investors who believe that the Fed will wait until December to raise rates. The Fed started its two-day policy meeting Wednesday and will announce its decision Thursday afternoon. Interest rates have been near zero since 2008 in response to the financial crisis and Great Recession. The Fed's low interest rate policy was designed to encourage lending, but it also helped drive a seven-year bull market in stocks.

MONETARY MOVES: Some analysts said the recent advances in stock markets are driven by expectations that central banks around the world may do more to support economic growth. Some economists expect the Bank of Japan will increase its asset purchase program and a number of European Central Bank members have talked up the prospect of additional asset purchases.

ANALYST QUOTE: "I can't help but think there is a view that something more substantial is at play here than just potential Fed inaction and I feel that market participants are looking at a global response driven by central banks," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia.

WALL STREET: Wall Street closed higher as the Fed policymakers began their two-day meeting. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8 percent to 16,739.95. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.9 percent to 1,995.31 and the Nasdaq composite added 0.6 percent to 4,889.24.

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ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude edged up 3 cents at $47.18 per barrel on electronic trading in New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $2.56, or 5.7 percent, to close at $47.15 per barrel on Wednesday after a steeper-than-expected drop in crude inventories. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, added 12 cents to $50.64 per barrel in London after a 4-percent jump in the previous session.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 120.76 yen from 120.56 yen and the euro weakened to $1.1288 from $1.1289.