Asian markets mostly up after Wall St, Europe gains

Asian markets mostly climbed on Wednesday, with dealers taking a positive cue from Wall Street and Europe, following a surge in investor confidence in eurozone powerhouse Germany.

Japanese shares posted healthy gains as the yen softened and data showed exports rose for the first time in eight months in January, although the country still posted its worst ever monthly trade deficit.

Tokyo added 0.84 percent, or 95.94 points, to 11,468.28, while Sydney was up 0.33 percent, or 16.8 points, to 5,098.7 points -- its highest close since September 2008.

Seoul jumped 1.95 percent, or 38.81 points to 2,024.64 and Hong Kong was up 0.71 percent, or 163.50 points, at 23,307.41, while Shanghai added 0.60 percent, or 14.27 points, to 2,397.18.

On Wall Street investors returned from a three-day weekend to send the Dow and S&P 500 to more than five-year highs thanks to fresh merger and acquisition news.

The Dow rose 0.39 percent to its best level since October 12, 2007 and the S&P 500 was up 0.73 percent, hitting its highest point since October 31, 2007. The Nasdaq gained 0.68 percent.

Reports that office supply retailers Office Depot and OfficeMax were planning a tie-up followed last week's news of a merger between American Airlines and US Airways, and the Berkshire Hathaway-3G Capital takeover of Heinz.

Hopes for an end to Europe's long struggles were given a fillip by the widely watched ZEW economic institute investor confidence index in Germany, which soared to 48.2 points in February from 31.5 points in January, its highest level since April 2010.

The reading beat market expectations for a much more modest increase to just 35 points this month.

On currency markets the dollar was at 93.40 yen, against 93.54 yen in New York on Tuesday.

The single European currency bought 125.29 yen and $1.3419 compared with 125.24 yen and $1.3390 in US trade.

Official data Wednesday showed Japan logged its worst ever trade deficit in January, with a shortfall of 1.63 trillion yen, more than the 1.3 trillion forecast. That came despite exports seeing first gain since June.

In Sydney mining giant BHP Billiton said its first half net profit fell 58 percent, but also announced that its chief executive Marius Kloppers will retire in May, to be replaced by the man who has headed the firm's non-ferrous division since 2008. The firm's shares were 0.56 percent lower in early trade.

On oil markets New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March gained 39 cents to $97.05 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April dropped 28 cents to $117.28.

Gold was at $1,595.20 at 1100 GMT, compared with $1,612.50 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taiwan rose 68.22 points, or 0.86 percent, to 8,029.1.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co added 1.87 percent to Tw$109.0, while Hon Hai Precision was 0.83 percent higher at Tw$84.8.

-- Manila rose 0.42 percent higher, or 27.85 points, to a record 6,648.57.

SM Investments Corp. gained 0.70 percent to 1,007 pesos while Megaworld Corp. rose 0.26 percent to 3.90 pesos.

-- Wellington fell 0.71 percent, or 29.97 points, to 4,214.24.

-- Singapore closed up 0.40 percent, or 13.12 points, at 3,308.89.

Capitaland increased 1.52 percent to Sg$4.01 and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation gained 0.50 percent to Sg$10.03.

-- Kuala Lumpur shed 1.74 points, or 0.11 percent, to close at 1,613.33.

DiGi.com lost 1.9 percent to 4.61 ringgit, while Telekom Malaysia slipped 1.3 per cent to close at 5.15. YTL Corp added 1.3 percent to 1.60 ringgit.

-- Jakarta closed up 32.39 points, or 0.70 percent, at 4,634.45.

-- Astra Agro Lestari rose 2.16 percent to 18,900 rupiah, while retailer Ramayana Lestari Sentosa jumped 5.31 percent to 1,190 rupiah. Cigarette maker Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna slid 1.35 percent to 73,000 rupiah.

-- Bangkok added 0.95 percent, or 14.57 points, to 1,546.64.

Power giant Electricity Generating Public Co. lost 0.66 percent to 151.50 baht, while Thai Airways International added 4.08 percent to 25.50 baht.

-- Mumbai edged up 0.04 percent, or 7.03 points, to 19,642.75.

Reliance Industries rose 3.13 percent to 875.35 rupees.

--

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