Asian stock markets reversed early losses to move higher Wednesday after President Barack Obama won a fiercely contested race for re-election.
BANGKOK — Stock markets had been in a state of suspended animation throughout the week as investors waited for the cliffhanger election to end. Now, with the Republican challenger Mitt Romney defeated, politicians in the world's biggest economy can refocus on issues other than the campaign.
One of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. is the looming "fiscal cliff," a combination of higher taxes and government spending cuts that automatically takes effect unless Congress acts by Jan. 1.
Economists have warned that if this so-called fiscal cliff is not avoided, the adverse effects could push the U.S. economy back into recession. Deciding the election is the first step toward a resolution.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index, bobbling between gains and losses, rose less than 0.1 percent to 8,976.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 22,010.27. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.2 percent to 1,933.52. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7 percent to 4,516.50. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, mainland China and Taiwan also rose. Stocks in the Philippines fell.
The race's results assured not only Obama of a job for the next four years. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke appears set to hold onto his job for another term. Romney, who disapproved of Bernanke's bond-buying programs to stimulate the U.S. economy, had said he would not reappoint him to another term to lead the Fed.
Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said an Obama victory means an extension of the status quo.
"Nothing will change. We will have ultra-low interest rates, a $1 trillion deficit, and quantitative easing," Lun said. "Bernanke will keep his job as Fed chairman. As for the fiscal cliff, the president will do something to minimize the effect of tax increases and spending cuts."
And, he added: "There will be less China-bashing. It's always for the challenger to bash China, and for the incumbent to defend China policy."
Wall Street closed higher on Tuesday as Americans headed to the polls. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1 percent to 13,245.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.8 percent to 1,428.39. The Nasdaq composite index added 0.4 percent to 3,011.93.
Investors also watching developments in Greece, where a political crisis could derail an austerity package that is required for the country to receive its next batch of bailout funds. Without the money, Greece faces the prospect of going bankrupt this month and possibly leaving the euro.
Also on the radar: Thursday's opening of China's Communist Party congress — the once-in-a-decade forum to name China's top leadership. Although current Vice President Xi Jinping is almost certain to be China's next leader, markets will be looking for hints on how the new leadership plans to tackle the nation's economic slowdown.
Benchmark oil for December delivery was down 15 cents to $88.56 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $3.06, or 3.5 percent, to finish at $88.71 in New York on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2862 from $1.2817 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 80.04 yen from 80.26 yen.