Asian stocks were mostly higher on Thursday, tracking overnight gains in Europe and Wall Street after U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s suggested stimulus policies may continue for longer than expected.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 per cent to 14,692.04 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 per cent to 4,986.40. Shares in New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore were also higher.

“The slowdown of growth in China is still the main concern,” said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. In prepared remarks to lawmakers in Congress, Bernanke said the Fed’s timetable for reducing its bond purchases was not decided and that the U.S. central bank could even boost them if the economy fails to meet expectations.

The Fed wants to see substantial progress in the job market before scaling back its $85 billion a month in purchase of government bonds and other financial assets, he said.

Expectations the Fed might start tapering off its stimulus in September have been cast into doubt by recent disappointing economic data.

Wall Street was reassured by Bernanke’s comments and also by stronger than expected earnings reports by big companies such as Bank of America, which reported higher profits in the second quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average was almost flat at 15,470.52 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.3 per cent to 1,680.91.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of British shares rose 0.2 per cent to close at 6,571.93 and Germany’s DAX gained 0.7 per cent to 8,254.72. The CAC-40 in France ended 0.6 per cent higher at 3,872.02.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 24 cents at $106.24 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 48 cents to settle Wednesday at $106.48.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3112 from $1.3117 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 99.76 yen from 99.62 yen.

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