* Asian stocks at 5-month high as HK, S.Korea lead gains
* U.S. House approves bill averting "fiscal cliff"
* Aussie, euro rise as U.S. dollar weakens
* Oil, copper jump as commodities join rally in risky assets
* China, Japan markets closed till Friday
By Vikram Subhedar
HONG KONG, Jan 2 Asian stocks hit a five-month
high and the dollar fell as a last-minute deal ended the U.S.
"fiscal cliff" crisis that threatened a U.S. recession and
roiled world financial markets.
The U.S. Congress approved a rare tax increase on Tuesday
that will hit the nation's wealthiest households in a bipartisan
budget deal that stops the world's largest economy from falling
Early on Tuesday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that aims to
avoid the cliff's automatic implementation of $600 billion in
spending cuts and tax increases.
The bill's passage in Congress allayed earlier concerns over
complaints from a number of Republicans that spending cuts were
still not adequately addressed.
Asian stock markets cheered the developments as a major risk
for investors, namely a slump in global growth, appeared to have
receded for now.
The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index of stocks
jumped 1.7 percent. Chinese shares in Hong Kong
jumped 2.9 percent as last month's rally spilled over
into the new year.
"If the fog caused by the fiscal cliff disappears, there
will probably be moves toward putting risk back on," said
Satoshi Okagawa, senior global markets analyst for Sumitomo
Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore.
In South Korea, where data showed manufacturing activity
rose for the first time in seven months in December, the KOSPI
index was up 1.5 percent.
Asian stocks outside Japan rose nearly 20 percent last year
as a combination of improving economic data from China, easing
worries about a euro zone blow-up, and global central bank
easing that encouraged investors back into equity markets.
Sakthi Siva, Asia strategist for Credit Suisse, said in a
note to clients that 2013 could see similar returns for Asian
equities, given a solution to the fiscal crisis.
"As we move into 2013 we retain our bullish bias, and our
theme is whether markets could catch up with earnings," said
Siva, adding that markets in China and India could offer the
most upside given the mismatch between index levels and earnings
OIL, EURO UP
Risky assets across the board got a lift with crude oil
futures up 0.8 percent and copper futures in London
jumping 1.7 percent.
The euro rose to $1.3267 against the U.S. dollar.
The safe-haven U.S. dollar edged lower, falling 0.4 percent
against a basket of major currencies.
The Australian dollar, a currency that tends to benefit when
optimism about the outlook for the global economy increases,
rose to $1.0470.
The Japanese yen continued its slide as investors wagered
the Bank of Japan would have to take ever-more aggressive easing
steps to support the economy and satisfy the new government.
The yen fell to 87.17 against the dollar to its
weakest level since July 2010.
The Japanese currency also dropped to depths not seen in
more than four years against the Australian and New Zealand