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Asian stocks higher after Wall Street gain, diplomatic efforts over Ukraine

BEIJING, China - Asian stocks were mostly higher Tuesday after U.S. markets rose on news of diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire in Ukraine.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 per cent to 15,465.61, Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.2 per cent at 25,002.34 and Seoul's Kospi added 0.7 per cent to 2,066.89. China's Shanghai Composite Index was the only decliner, shedding 0.1 per cent to 2,237.34. Sydney, Taipei and Singapore all rose.

UKRAINE: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said issues related to sending a humanitarian convoy to Ukraine were resolved following weekend talks in Berlin with his counterparts from Ukraine, Germany and France. Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there was progress on "some issues," though Lavrov said there was no movement on establishing a cease-fire between the government and pro-Russian rebels.

THE QUOTE: "Markets started the week on a firm note as investors took positively the talks between Russia and Ukraine over the weekend even though no major breakthrough was reached," said Credit Agricole CIB in a report.

CHINESE HOUSING: Housing prices fell in July for a third month, with declines recorded in 64 out of 70 cities, compared with 55 in June, official data showed. Regulators are trying to restrain surging housing costs with building and purchase curbs while avoiding an abrupt slowdown that could send shockwaves through the economy.

U.S. HOUSING: A survey showed sentiment among home builders improved in August for a third month. Mizuho Bank said that suggests housing is "experiencing a broad-based revival," which might bring forward plans by the Federal Reserve, which has cited housing as a concern, to raise interest rates.

LOOKING AHEAD: The U.S. government was due to announce monthly inflation Wednesday and the Fed was due to release minutes on Wednesday from its July policy meeting. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen speaks Friday at an annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and is expected to affirm her position that Fed should keep monetary policy loose to respond to a slack labour market.

WALL STREET: U.S. markets were buoyed by retailer Dollar General's bid to acquire Family Dollar. Dollar General was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, rising 11.6 per cent. Family Dollar rose 5 per cent. The S&P 500 rose 0.9 per cent to 1,971.74. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.1 per cent to 16,838.74. The Nasdaq composite added 1 per cent to 4,508.31.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was little changed at 102.62 yen from late Monday's 102.63 yen. The euro also edged down to $1.3358 from Monday's $1.3361.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was up 33 cents to $96.73 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 94 cents on Monday to $96.41, its lowest level since April, as fears of disruption in supplies from Iraq eased.

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