Asian stocks gain after US House passes economic stimulus bill

Asian markets advanced Thursday, with Hong Kong jumping 4.6 percent in a catch-up rally, as the US House of Representatives approved a $819 billion stimulus bill that investors hope will help lift the American economy out of its worst crisis in decades. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 144.95 points, or 1.8 percent, to 8,251.24 even as new data showed that retail sales in the world's second-largest economy sank the most in nearly four years in December. Hong Kong's Hang Seng leaped 575.83 points, or 4.6 percent, to 13,154.43 after being closed for three days for the Lunar New Year. Mainland China's markets are closed all week. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.7 percent and Australia's main index rose 0.9 percent. Sentiment in Asia got a boost as President Barack Obama's massive stimulus package moved closer to becoming a reality.