| Updated at: 1909 PST, Wednesday, October 13, 2010|
HONG KONG: Asian stocks edged higher on Wednesday after the US Federal Reserve said it may provide more stimulus, with Tokyo getting an extra lift from glowing data on private-sector machinery orders.
Tokyo's Nikkei index ended up 0.16 percent, or 14.87 points, at 9,403.51 and Hong Kong jumped 1.45 percent, or 335.99 points, to 23,457.69.
Shanghai rose 0.70 percent, or 19.95 points, to 2,861.36 while Sydney ended flat at 4,619.9.
Markets were boosted by minutes from last month's meeting of the Fed's Open Market Committee saying the central bank was prepared "to provide additional accommodation if needed" to help the economy.
That was enough to send US stocks into positive territory and gave a lift to markets across Asia after a uniform plunge on Tuesday.
"Recent comments by Fed Chairman (Ben) Bernanke reassured investors the Fed has the armoury required, and is all too willing to pull the trigger if need be," Christopher Gore, sales trader at GOMarkets in Melbourne, told Dow Jones Newswires.
Japan's mood also improved after data showed that core private-sector machinery orders, a leading indicator of corporate capital spending, had risen 10.1 percent in August.
That marked a third straight monthly rise and confounded expectations of a shrinkage, raising hopes that Japan may find a way out of its doldrums. Kenichi Hirano, strategist at Tachibana Securities, noted that the orders data was "absolutely a surprise".
However he added that the problem of the strength of Japan's yen currency, which hinders the all-important export sector, was hardly likely to go away.
Amid fears that major powers could enter a damaging "currency war" to boost exports, Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda warned G20 chair and hi-tech rival South Korea it would be "seriously questioned" over its currency moves.
Data showing a slight weakening in China's trade surplus was unlikely to ease pressure from the US and other critics who complain Beijing is keeping its currency artificially weak to help Chinese exports, analysts said.
The country's trade surplus fell to 16.88 billion dollars in September compared with 20.03 billion dollars in August, and was the lowest in five months.
Reflecting this robust trade, China's foreign exchange reserves ballooned to a record 2.648 trillion dollars by the end of September, the central bank said.
Mainland China shares were notably driven upwards by property developers and cement firms. Property developers in Hong Kong clawed back ground after an intra-day plunge prompted by news of measures to curb residency rights for outsiders investing in the territory's glitzy property sector.
On currency markets the yen was trading at 81.81 to the dollar, slightly down from 81.71 in New York earlier and at 114.19 to the euro, down from 113.81 earlier.
The dollar was at 1.3955 euros, down from 1.3918 in New York.
The US unit's relative weakness continued to boost oil prices however, as traders snap up crude futures.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in November, gained 52 cents to 82.19 dollars a barrel in the afternoon.
Brent North Sea crude for November delivery rose 40 cents to 83.90 dollars.
World oil prices slid on Tuesday ahead of a meeting of the OPEC production cartel this week, after dominant player Saudi Arabia expressed happiness with current price levels.
Gold closed at 1,359.00-1,360.00 US dollars an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Tuesday's close of 1,344.50-1,345.50 dollars.