Asian stocks advanced on Tuesday, supported by optimism that China would shun aggressive measures to curb inflation that could inhibit its strong economic growth or blunt its voracious demand for raw materials.
The euro hovered near three-week highs against a broadly weaker dollar, with traders citing solid buying from accounts, including Asian central banks, though year-end trading was thin and choppy.
European stocks were seen mostly unchanged, halting a two-week rally, as traders awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve's last scheduled meeting of 2010 later in the day. <.EU>
Analysts expected the Fed to remain in a holding pattern as officials evaluate the recent launch of a bond-buying program and the health of the U.S. economic recovery after a spate of encouraging data. Fed officials will likely revise their economic outlook to reflect stronger growth after the White House and Republicans agreed to extend tax breaks and provide a payroll tax cut.
Sentiment is decidedly more upbeat now than it was a few weeks ago, said Austock senior client adviser Michael Heffernan.
China didn't increase rates, Ireland has settled down, America has given the tick to the tax bill and there is no major domestic data out.
The MSCI index of Asian stocks outside of Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.4 percent, bringing its gains so far this year to around 13 percent, while the Nikkei <.N225> edged up 0.2 percent.
South Korean stocks <.KS11> hit a fresh 37-month high, breaching the psychologically significant 2,000-point level, fueled by gains in key technology issues and automakers such as Hyundai Motors <005380.KS>, which rose 1.4 percent.
Shares of resources companies in Asia were also bolstered by a jump in metals prices after Chinese weekend data showed industrial production remained buoyant.
Many investors had feared China would raise interest rates last week to curb mounting inflationary pressures, but the central bank opted instead to further increase the amount of extra capital top banks must hold.
An official newspaper said on Tuesday China would probably target the same level of new loans next year as in 2010, a further indication that policy could be slightly looser than expected.
The Chinese economy is very big now and a target of 7.5 trillion yuan in new loans will not trigger all-round inflation, the front-page report in the Chinese Securities Journal said.
A Reuters poll released on Monday showed economists still see a rate rise in China in coming months, but expect policymakers to rely more on lending controls in 2011 as their weapon of choice in the fight against mounting price pressures.
MOODY'S WARNING RATTLES DOLLAR
The dollar remained soft after a warning from Moody's overnight.
The credit ratings agency said it could move a step closer to cutting America's triple-A rating if the Obama administration's deal to extend tax cuts wins Congressional approval and pushes up already bloated debt levels.
The dollar index against a basket of other major currencies <.DXY> slipped marginally to 79.24, having plumbed a three-week low of 79.101 on Monday. The euro was at $1.3386, having risen as high as $1.3433.
Helped by high metals prices, commodity currencies shone. The Australian dollar almost hit a month high and could come close to testing parity. It hovered at $0.9959.
In New York on Monday, the broad S&P 500 index <.SPX> closed flat and the Dow <.DJI> ended just above break-even amid signs U.S. stocks may be nearing overbought levels, and on investor caution about staking out new positions heading into year-end. <.N>
Oil prices recouped early losses to stand little changed at around $88.55 a barrel ahead of U.S. oil industry stock data.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)