Asia stocks up as Wall Street climbs on tech gains

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets powered higher Thursday after a U.S. communications company posted a surprise jump in earnings that led to big gains in technology stocks and new highs on Wall Street.

Markets took additional encouragement from the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's March meeting, which showed a majority of policymakers in favor of continuing the central bank's bond purchases to help boost the U.S. economy at least through the middle of the year.

Although some policymakers want to slow and eventually end the purchases before the end of 2013, some investors took that as a sign of confidence in the U.S. economy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.8 percent to 22,220.54. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.2 percent to 13,450.32, riding a wave of enthusiasm for the Bank of Japan's aggressive new approach to stimulating the world's third-largest economy out of a prolonged slump. Australia's S&P/ASX advanced 0.7 percent to 5,001.40.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 1,940.57, even though the Bank of Korea disappointed some analysts by keeping its key interest rate at 2.75 percent. Some were expecting the central bank would lower the rate to spark borrowing and help the economy.

Investors are also hoping that progress will be made in Washington toward a 2014 federal budget. President Barack Obama proposed a $3.8 trillion plan on Wednesday. Without a budget agreement, a huge array of government spending cuts — known as sequestration — will remain in place. Some economists believe the cuts are hurting growth and employment.

"That last jobs report shows potentially the sequestration is having an effect on employment, and that will have a big knock-on effect on the U.S. recovery," said Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong. "Now that you've had a bad jobs report, people won't want to see another one."

Japanese high-tech shares were among the strong gainers in Asia. Hitachi Ltd. jumped 6.7 percent and Sharp Corp. surged 7.2 percent. Travel-related shares in China began to recover from recent losses as fears eased after a string of bird flu cases were discovered in eastern China. Hong Kong-listed Air China rose 3 percent. China Southern Airlines gained 2 percent.

On Wall Street, a surge in technology stocks on Wednesday drove the Standard & Poor's 500 and Dow Jones industrial average to record highs. The gains came after network communications company Adtran reported earnings that were double what was expected.

The Dow rose 0.9 percent, its biggest one-day gain in a month, to 14,802.24. The S&P 500 rose 1.2 percent to 1,567.73. The Nasdaq composite gained 1.8 percent to 3,297.25.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 31 cents to $94.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to $94.33 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currency markets, the euro rose to $1.3062 from $1.3058 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 99.58 yen from 99.76 yen.


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