Asia stocks up on strong US corporate earnings
Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after strong U.S. corporate earnings sent the Dow close to its record high. Japanese shares faltered, however, as the yen rebounded against the dollar.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei index fell as the yen strengthened against the dollar following a pledge by finance ministers from the world's largest economies to refrain from intentionally weakening their currencies. The Nikkei 225 was down 0.2 percent to 11,344.45.
Australian stocks hit their highest intraday level in nearly three years. The S&P/ASX 200 was up 1.1 percent to 5,011.60. South Korea's Kospi advanced 1.1 percent to 1,966.76. Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines also rose.
Markets in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
Finance ministers from the world's major advanced economies said in a statement following a meeting in Brussels that they remained committed to exchange rates driven by the market, not government or central bank policies.
Traders interpreted the statement as a message directed at Japan, where the yen has plummeted against the dollar since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office and pushed the central bank for ultra-loose monetary policy.
Central bank governor Masaaki Shirakawa, who has appeared at odds with Abe's views on monetary policy, is resigning next month, giving the government an opportunity to find a successor more sympathetic to its aims.
The Bank of Japan begins a two-day policy meeting Wednesday but analysts said no new initiatives were expected in light of the impending leadership change.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose to its highest close of the year after positive results from two big U.S. consumer brands, beauty products maker Avon and luxury clothing and accessories company Michael Kors. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S.
The Dow rose 0.3 percent to 14,018.70, within 1 percent of its record of 14,164 it set in October 2007. The S&P 500 gained 0.2 percent to 1,519.43. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2 percent to 3,186.49.
Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 8 cents to $97.59 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 48 cents to finish at $97.51 on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3452 from $1.3444 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 93.25 yen from 93.52 yen.
Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson