(AP) — A strong rebound on Wall Street spurred by strong earnings reports and better-than-expected housing starts sent Asian stocks higher in early trading Wednesday.
The Nikkei rose 1.4 percent to 9,572.25 despite a government report showing that exports for March dropped for the first time in 16 months — one of many consequences to be felt from the mammoth earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country's industrial northeast last month.
South Korea's Kospi was 1.6 percent higher to 2,157.70, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.9 percent to 23,735.65. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Australia were also higher. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed, with the Shanghai Composite Index gaining 0.3 percent while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index dropped marginally.
In New York on Tuesday, health care giant Johnson & Johnson rose 3.7 percent, leading the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, with earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations.
In Washington, the Commerce Department reported that builders broke ground in March on more new homes than analysts expected. Home construction rose 7.2 percent from February.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to close at 12,266.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.6 percent to 1,312.62. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.4 percent to 2,744.97.
Major stock indexes posted their largest one-day drop in over a month Monday after S&P said it might lower its rating on U.S. government bonds if Washington failed to tackle its mounting debts. While the rating agency kept its U.S. debt rating at AAA, the highest possible, it warned that there was a one-in-three chance it would downgrade U.S. debt within two years.
After the market closed, tech heavyweight Intel Corp. said earnings jumped 29 percent, surpassing estimates. Business spending on new computers offset a design error in one of its chips. Intel rose 6.2 percent in extended trading.
The dollar strengthened to 82.91 yen from 82.37 yen late Tuesday in New York. The euro rose against the greenback to $1.4388 from $1.4340.
Benchmark crude for June delivery rose 17 cents a barrel to $108.45 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $108.28 per barrel late Tuesday.