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HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Most Asian markets advanced Wednesday, with a rise in commodity prices and a surge in Chinese imports boosting resource stocks, while Japanese shares get support from the weak yen.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average JP:NIK+0.73% rose 0.7% to 13,288.13, a closing level it hasn’t seen since Aug. 12, 2008.
South Korea’s Kospi KR:SEU+0.77% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HK:HSI+0.75% added 0.8% each and Taiwan’s Taiex XX:Y9999+0.31% gained 0.3%.
The growth in imports “indicates that domestic consumption is showing signs of rising, which is in line with the central government’s policy and would be good for China long-term,” said Kim Eng Securities director for sales Andrew Sullivan.
In Japan, steel maker JFE Holdings Inc. JP:5411+4.05%JFEEF-7.94% climbed 4.1% and commodities trader Marubeni Corp. MARUY+1.29%JP:8002+4.25% rose 4.3%, while in Seoul, shares of steel major Posco PKX+0.94%KR:005490+2.56% gained 2.6%.
In Sydney, BHP Billiton Ltd. BHP+4.47%AU:BHP+1.72% and Rio Tinto Ltd. AU:RIO+2.73%RIO-0.04% advanced 1.7% and 2.7%, respectively, despite the broader market’s weakness, after data showing a rebound in Chinese iron-ore imports in March from a decline in the first two months of the year.
In Hong Kong, Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. HK:2600+3.10%CN:601600+5.60%ACH+4.67% climbed 3.1%, and Jiangxi Copper Co. HK:358+1.08%CN:600362+1.13%JIXAY+1.93% rose 1.1%, while in Shanghai, they rose 5.6% and 1.1%, respectively.
The broad advances followed a higher finish on Wall Street overnight, with the Dow industrials DJIA+0.41% ending at a record-high level. But some analysts raised concerns over U.S. earnings growth — a key driver for sentiment in global markets.
“The current U.S. reporting season is set to be a modest one ... with over 100 companies of the S&P 500 SPX+0.35% having already provided negative guidance for the first quarter,” said Perpetual head of investment market research Matthew Sherwood.
“Firms with exposure to the deterioration in Europe, the slowing in Asia and the U.S. dollar’s strength can expect some further downside risk to their numbers,” he said.
U.S. equity index futures were higher by late afternoon in Hong Kong, with Dow Jones Industrial Average futures up 30 points, or 0.2%, at 14,640.
Gains in Japan came amid expectations the U.S. dollar USDJPY+0.50% may soon cross the 100-yen level despite the pair’s inability to cross over the threshold Tuesday.
“We believe that it will only be a matter of time before this level is taken out,” said BK Asset Management managing director Kathy Lien.
A survey by the Nikkei newspaper, showing that two-thirds of corporate leaders expect business to improve because of the yen’s recent movements, also aided sentiment.
Among stocks sensitive to currency movements, Toyota Motor Corp. JP:7203+1.14%TM-1.09% added 1.1%, Canon Inc. JP:7751+2.01%CAJ+0.91% climbed 2% and Komatsu Ltd. JP:6301+1.66%KMTUF-4.55% gained 1.7%.
Among banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. JP:8306+4.97%MTU-3.03% jumped 5%, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. JP:8316+6.70%SMFG-2.22% soared 6.7%.
However, shares of banks and retailers retreated in Sydney after data showing that consumer sentiment weakened in April.
Among the blue chips, National Australia Bank Ltd. AU:NAB-0.67%NABZY+3.53% slipped 0.7%, and Woolworths Ltd. AU:WOW-1.05%WOLWF+2.05% slid 1.1%.
Shares of sportswear maker Billabong International Ltd. AU:BBG-26.71%BLLAY-8.66% plunged 26.7% after the firm said it was in talks with a private-equity consortium over a takeover bid that was 45% below previous indicative offers.
Varahabhotla Phani Kumar is a reporter in MarketWatch's Hong Kong bureau. Follow him on Twitter @MktwKumar.