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Asia stock markets rise after strong US earnings
Asian stocks rise after strong US corporate earnings lifts the investment mood
By The Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) ' Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after earnings from Apple Inc. and other U.S. companies blew past expectations, providing a distraction from the economic and political turbulence intensifying in Europe over its debt crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1 percent to 9,562.30 as the yen slipped against the dollar ' a movement generally benefiting the country's exporters.

South Korea's Kospi index gained 0.4 percent to 1,970.44, helped by improving consumer confidence. Yonhap news agency quoted the country's central bank as saying that consumer sentiment improved for a third straight month in April.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng ticked up less than 0.1 percent to 20,685.23. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, mainland China and the Philippines also rose.

The New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges were closed for public holidays.

U.S. corporate earnings propelled the Dow Jones industrial average higher Tuesday.

Apple again proved skeptics wrong by reporting blowout iPhone sales. The world's most valuable company sold 35 million iPhones in January through March, nearly twice as many as in the same period a year earlier. By beating expectations on iPhone sales, Apple sailed past analyst earnings and revenue forecasts as well.

AT&T also reported first-quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations, while Verizon ' AT&T's main rival ' was close behind. 3M rose sharply after delivering an impressive quarterly report. Candy maker Hershey Co. said its first-quarter profit rose 24 percent on higher prices and cost cutting.

Still, traders remained vigilant ahead of the release Friday of U.S. growth figures for the first three months of 2012, said Lee Kok Joo, head of research at Phillip Securities in Singapore.

"Apple gave a very good result and that boosted confidence," he said. "But we are still looking for the U.S. GDP estimate on Friday and just waiting to see the direction of the U.S. economy."

Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said trading was likely to be "restrained" before the end of a two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting later Wednesday and the release of the Fed's latest assessment of the U.S. economy.

"There will likely be small adjustments to the Fed's economic projections, including lower unemployment and higher near-term inflation," the analysts wrote in an e-mail. "There is little sentiment for additional stimulus at the current time."

In South Korea, Lotte Shopping Co. fell 1.1 percent after its Lotte Mart supermarket chain halted sales of U.S. beef because of the discovery of mad cow disease in a U.S. dairy cow.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.6 percent at 13,001.56. The S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent to 1,371.97. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.85 points to 2,961.60.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 12 cents to $103.67 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 44 cents to settle at $103.55 in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3195 from $1.3189 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.41 yen from 81.26 yen.


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