By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian stock markets rallied on Wednesday after another record finish for key U.S. equity indexes and strong Chinese trade data, with Japanese shares edging closer to five-year highs.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -2.53% climbed 0.7% to end at 14,285.69, its highest close since June 18, 2008.
The Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -0.57% rose 0.5% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -2.67% added 0.9%, after official data showed China posted a trade surplus of $18.16 billion in April. Exports jumped 14.7% from a year-earlier and imports rose 16.8%, with both exceeding expectations.
Stocks also rallied in other markets that count China as a key trading partner. Taiwan’s Taiex gained 1.3%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -1.73% rose 1.1%, and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.47% climbed 0.1%.
The advances came after the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -2.53% and the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -2.27% ended at a record level Tuesday. Sentiment was also aided by news from Europe, where Germany’s benchmark index ended at a record high and the Stoxx Europe 600 finished at its highest level since June 2008.
“At present, markets are driven by heightened stimulus and the fact that economic data remain in the Goldilocks range — weak enough to warrant continued stimulus, but strong enough to keep earnings expectations positive,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual.
The resource sector was a notable gainer across the region as the jump in monthly imports underlined the strength of Chinese demand.
“The commodity import picture suggest some moderate recovery in April,” analysts at J.P. Morgan wrote in a note to clients.
PetroChina Co. /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -3.40% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR -7.13% rose 2.9%, and Cnooc Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203421416/delayed HK:883 -2.14% climbed 1.4% in Hong Kong, despite an overnight drop in prices of several commodities; in Shanghai, coal miners China Shenhua Energy Co. /zigman2/quotes/202621923/delayed CN:601088 -2.90% /zigman2/quotes/206839995/composite CSUAY -1.88% gained 0.4%, and China Coal Energy Co. /zigman2/quotes/200280825/delayed CN:601898 -1.78% /zigman2/quotes/205321671/composite CCOZY -5.18% added 0.2%.
Elsewhere, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG -3.86% /zigman2/quotes/204116626/composite FSUMF -0.80% spiked 5.4%, and Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -2.25% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -2.23% moved 2.6% higher in Sydney. In Tokyo, energy producer Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -2.46% /zigman2/quotes/206936121/composite IPXHF -7.08% gained 1.8%, and trading house Marubeni Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202870197/delayed JP:8002 -2.72% /zigman2/quotes/210513544/composite MARUY -3.78% jumped 1.1%.
Shares of bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200234512/delayed HK:388 -1.36% /zigman2/quotes/201215503/composite HKXCY -1.71% slid 1.1% after its quarterly profit rose just 1% from a year-earlier, although revenue increased 20%..
In Tokyo, meanwhile, shares of Softbank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 -5.19% /zigman2/quotes/202815238/composite SFTBF -5.14% advanced 2.9% after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. — in which the mobile-service provider holds a stake — said its profits nearly tripled in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The gains followed a day after Softbank unveiled six new smartphone models, including handsets that are compatible with high-definition television broadcasts for mobile phones, according to a Nikkei newspaper report.
Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 -2.89% [ /zigman2/quotes/200401218/composite SHCAY -4.06% jumped 6.3% after the Nikkei newspaper reported two banks had increased the line of credit they set up for the company.
Some exporters also advanced on strong cues from Wall Street, with Olympus Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200860615/delayed JP:7733 -0.78% gaining 5% and Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -1.93% rising 2.1%.
But shares of Toshiba Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205628942/delayed JP:6502 -0.69% /zigman2/quotes/204149068/composite TOSYY -2.23% tumbled 5% after the Nikkei separately reported the company may have missed its operating profit forecast for the fiscal year ended March 31.
After the close, Toshiba reported a 62% drop in its quarterly net profit, missing analysts’ expectations.
In other after-market earnings, Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 -1.78% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -2.69% reported its January-March profit more than doubled, far exceeding analysts’ forecasts. Shares of Toyota had closed 1.4% higher ahead of the results.
Australian shares, which ended lower on Tuesday after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) surprised most economists with an interest rate cut, gained as some banks and telecommunication major Telstra Corp. recovered on the back of their dividend appeal.
“By no means is the yield trade over following yesterday’s surprise rate cut by the RBA. And with scope for the RBA to cut rates further, we will continue to see investors forced to seek higher returns, away from bonds and bank deposits and into stocks,” said Rivkin Securities analyst Tim Radford.
Shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA -1.00% /zigman2/quotes/207018701/composite CBAUF +6.33% gained 1.3%, and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ -0.73% /zigman2/quotes/203732563/composite ANZBY -3.40% added 0.9%, while Telstra /zigman2/quotes/201936124/delayed AU:TLS -0.74% /zigman2/quotes/209181685/composite TLSYY -2.12% also climbed 1.2%.