Asian stocks higher on easing of Ukraine tensions

Associated Press
Ukrainian recruits line up as they receive military instructions from a commander in a recruitment self defense quarter at Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's border to return to their bases as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Kiev. Tensions remained high in the strategic Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with troops loyal to Moscow fired warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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Ukrainian recruits line up as they receive military instructions from a commander in a recruitment self defense quarter at Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's border to return to their bases as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Kiev. Tensions remained high in the strategic Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with troops loyal to Moscow fired warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

TOKYO (AP) — A sense of relief over the easing of tensions between Russia and Ukraine lifted Asian stocks Wednesday, but failed to sustain gains for European markets which were boosted the day before.

The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, gained 1.2 percent to close at 14,897.63. South Korea's Kospi also rose, adding 0.9 percent to 1,971.24. The main index for Thai shares added 0.2 percent to 1,348.81. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was an exception and slipped 0.3 percent to 22,579.78.

Better sentiment rushed through global markets after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said his country was not seeking to escalate the conflict with Ukraine, whose Crimean peninsula is occupied by Russian troops.

But the Nikkei is having a hard time rising past 15,000 as players are waiting to sell at those levels, said Yutaka Miura, senior analyst at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo.

With trading volumes relatively low, and the absence of market-moving news, shares are being buoyed by U.S. developments, he said.

"The rise in U.S. stocks and the higher dollar are key," he said.

The focus is now on U.S. job data set for release later in the week, which is expected to be positive, Miura said.

Brtain's FTSE 100 dipped 0.2 percent in early trading to 6,807.60 and Germany's DAX lost 0.4 percent to 9,547.02. The CAC-40 in France was down 0.1 percent to 4,392.25.

Dow Jones industrials and S&P 500 futures were little changed.

Stock markets in Europe, including in Moscow and Asia, already recouped a large chunk of Monday's losses on Tuesday, while gold and oil have given back some of their gains.

Regional traders are also focusing on the National People's Congress in China. The country's leaders pledged Wednesday to promote sustainable growth by opening state-dominated industries to private investment and making banks more market-oriented while keeping this year's economic expansion at a relatively robust 7.5 percent.

Also helping shares in Asia was a slight recovery in the dollar, which was trading at about 102.37 yen, up from 101.76 yen late Tuesday. The euro was little changed at $1.3730 from $1.3750.

The gains in Asian markets came after Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's eastern border to return to their bases.

The mood was further bolstered when Putin said the situation in Ukrainian region of Crimea did not require military action. He said the recent military moves in Crimea that have effectively seen Russia take control of the peninsula were a humanitarian response, and that use of force would be a last resort.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 3 cents at $103.36 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.59 to $103.33 on Tuesday.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama

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