* Asian stocks at 5-month high as HK, S.Korea lead
* Crisis averted, European stocks and Wall St set for gains
* 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 rose nearly two
percent to hit a five-month high and the dollar fell as both
houses of Congress passed a bill to end the "fiscal cliff"
crisis that threatened a U.S. recession and roiled world
European markets were set to rally on the news, with
spreadbetters expecting London's FTSE to rise about 1
percent and Frankfurt's DAX to open up 0.5 percent.
The Congress approved extending lower Bush-era tax rates to
all but the nation's wealthiest households in a budget deal that
stopped 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.
The temporary reprieve that the deal offers the U.S. economy
also sets up Wall Street for a strong start to trading which
resumes later in the day.
Asian stock markets cheered the developments as a major risk
for investors, namely a slump in the global economy, appeared to
have receded for now.
"This is great news for global growth and explains why
shares and other growth-related assets such as the Australian
dollar are up strongly today," said Shane Oliver, strategist at
Australian shares rose to a 19-month high while the
Aussie dollar jumped to 1.4082.
The MSCI Asia Pacific ex-Japan index of stocks
rose 1.9 percent. Chinese shares in Hong Kong
jumped 3 percent as last month's rally spilled over into
the new year with stocks closely linked to China's economy such
as steel and cement posting the biggest gains.
In South Korea, where data showed manufacturing activity
rose for the first time in seven months in December, the KOSPI
index was up 1.6 percent led by a 3.6 percent jump in
smartphone giant Samsung Electronics.
"The index is riding high on the U.S. fiscal deal. This
upward momentum will last a couple of weeks, after which there
will be a reality check due to the unresolved issue of the
spending cuts and debt ceiling," said Cho Tae-hoon, an analyst
at Samsung Securities.
Singapore was the best-performing market in South
East Asia rising 1.2 percent after data showed the city-state
dodged an expected economic recession in the last three months
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
Risky assets across the board got a lift with crude oil
futures up 1.1 percent and copper futures in London
jumping 1.7 percent.
The euro rose to $1.3261 against the U.S. dollar.
The safe-haven U.S. dollar edged lower, falling 0.4 percent
against a basket of major currencies.
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