(AP) — An energetic rebound on Wall Street spurred by strong earnings reports and better-than-expected housing starts sent Asian stocks higher Wednesday.
The Nikkei rose 1.4 percent to 9,575.64 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 1.8 percent higher to 2,160.67, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.9 percent to 23,728.55. 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 0.1 percent.
"It was all about earnings news overnight, with some very positive results significantly boosting overall sentiment," said Ben Potter of IG Markets in Melbourne. "In summary, it looks like the market is set for a broad-based rebound at the open as positive sentiment from the US session flows through."
Shares of Japanese consumer electronics maker Toshiba Corp. rose 4 percent, with the company revising upward its group net profit projection for fiscal 2010 to 135 billion yen ($1.6 billion) from 100 billion yen on sales of assets and smaller-than-expected restructuring costs, Kyodo news agency reported.
Shares of South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. jumped 3.7 percent after an announcement Tuesday that Seagate Technology PLC agreed to buy Samsung's hard drive business for $1.38 billion. The cash-and-stock deal would give Samsung a stake of nearly 10 percent in Seagate, one of the few remaining makers of hard disk drives, which store data in traditional PCs.
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. Yahoo Inc. and IBM Corp. also posted strong results.
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 82.92 yen from 82.37 yen late Tuesday in New York. The euro rose against the greenback to $1.4393 from $1.4340.
Benchmark crude for June delivery rose 42 cents a barrel to $108.70 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $108.28 per barrel late Tuesday.