Asian markets rise on upbeat China trade data

Asian markets climbed on Thursday after China released better-than-expected trade data that provide further evidence the world's number two economy has emerged from a drawn-out slumber.

The Nikkei in Japan was also boosted by the continued weakness of the yen, while a rally on Wall Street capped a two-day losing streak and provided extra impetus to Asian buyers.

Tokyo closed up 0.70 percent, or 74.07 points, at 10,652.64 as China-linked firms rose, with construction machinery maker Komatsu up 1.63 percent to 2,294 yen.

Sony closed 3.41 percent higher at 968 yen on a report the struggling electronics giant would sell one of its main buildings in Tokyo to finance a huge restructuring.

Isuzu shares were 3.80 percent higher at 545 yen after the firm said it was in discussions with US giant General Motors on developing next-generation pickup trucks as a report said the two were in talks over a possible tie-up.

The Sydney index gained 0.32 percent, or 14.9 points, to end at 4,723.0 and Seoul climbed 0.75 percent, or 14.99 points, to 2,006.80.

Hong Kong jumped 0.59 percent, or 135.84 points, to 23,354.31 and Shanghai added 0.37 percent, or 8.32 points, at 2,283.66.

"The (Shanghai) market may head further north as the upward trend since December remains intact with a continued improvement in economic indicators," China Minzu Securities analyst Chen Wei told Dow Jones Newswires.

China said its trade surplus surged 48.1 percent to $231.1 billion in 2012 from the previous year, helped by a 7.9 percent rise in exports to $2.05 trillion, while imports increased 4.3 percent $1.82 trillion.

However, the trade volume, the total of exports and imports, grew 6.2 percent, below the government target of about 10 percent.

Customs bureau spokesman Zheng Yuesheng said last year's performance came "despite a sharply slowing world economic recovery, weak international market demand and rather big downside pressure on the domestic economy".

The figures are the latest in a string of data in recent months that indicate the world's second biggest economy has finally turned a corner after seven straight quarters of slowing growth.

Beijing's export-driven economy has been buffeted by the long-running debt crisis in Europe and ongoing uncertainty in the United States, both crucial markets for China's products.

The trade figures are the first of a batch of indicators from Beijing, with inflation results due Friday and closely watched gross domestic product figures expected on Sunday.

"We are seeing assets pick up across the board... after encouraging data with better-than-expected trade numbers from China," said Jason Hughes, the head of premium client management at IG Markets in Singapore.

In Tokyo, exporters were higher owing to the weaker yen, spurred by expectations for fresh monetary easing by the Bank of Japan as well as promises by the new government to boost spending.

New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was elected last month, on Wednesday reiterated his call for BoJ governor Masaaki Shirakawa to introduce a two percent inflation target ahead of the bank's upcoming policy meeting.

The dollar rose to 88.27 yen in Tokyo trade, from 87.86 yen in New York late Wednesday, while the euro climbed to 115.36 yen from 114.77 yen.

The single currency weakened to $1.3071 from $1.3061.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.46 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.27 percent and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 0.45 percent.

However, investors remain wary as the US corporate earnings season gets under way.

Oil prices rose in Asian trade Thursday, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, gaining 54 cents to $93.64 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February adding 49 cents to $112.25.

Gold was at $1,662.87 at 1030 GMT compared with $1,663.68 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Singapore closed up 0.18 percent, or 5.84 points, to 3,226.25.

DBS Bank gained 0.88 percent to Sg$14.83 while conglomerate Fraser and Neave, a takeover target between a Thai tycoon and an Indonesian rival, dropped 0.10 percent to Sg$9.69.

-- Taipei rose 0.94 percent, or 73.0 points, to 7,811.64.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 1.0 percent higher at Tw$101.0 while Fubon Financial Holding added 3.33 percent to Tw$37.2.

-- Jakarta slipped 1.04 percent, or 45.56 points, to 4,317.36.

Palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari fell 3.22 percent to 19,550 rupiah and car maker Astra International lost 4.55 percent to 7,350 rupiah, while food manufacturer Cahaya Kalbar rose 3.27 percent to 1,580 rupiah.

-- Kuala Lumpur fell 0.32 percent, or 5.36 points, to 1,684.57.

IOI lost 1.8 percent to 5.03 ringgit, Sime Darby shed 0.3 percent to 9.57 while British American Tobacco gained 0.4 percent to 61.10.

-- Bangkok lost 1.23 percent or 17.47 points to 1,405.99.

Telecoms company Advanced Info Service fell 1.99 percent to 197.00 baht, while oil firm PTT dropped 1.21 percent to 327.00 baht.

-- Manila fell 1.19 percent, or 72.61 points, to 6,018.57 as profit-taking ended a seven-session rally.

GT Capital Holdings dropped 0.89 percent to 666 pesos.

Ayala Corp. dipped 0.55 percent to 547 pesos and SM Investments Corp. shed 2.85 percent to 920 pesos.

-- Wellington ended 0.38 percent higher, adding 15.54 points to 4,119.08.

Fletcher Building was up 2.6 percent at NZ$8.67 and Trade Me rose 1.8 percent to close NZ$3.98.

-- Mumbai ended flat, down 0.02 percent at 19,663.55, after some investment banks warned of slowing growth in emerging markets.

Indian engineering giant BHEL fell 2.19 percent to 231.8 rupees while ailing Kingfisher Airlines rose 9.96 percent to 14.79 percent.

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