BANGKOK (AP) — Stock markets in Asia moved higher Thursday on the heels of positive corporate news and resilience in U.S. consumer spending.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.6 percent to 11,317.61. The Tokyo market shrugged off data showing the Japanese economy shrank for a third straight quarter in the last three months of 2012, as investors expected the yen's recent weakness will boost company earnings.
The Bank of Japan ended a policy meeting Thursday with no new initiatives, which was the expected outcome ahead of an impending leadership change at the central bank.
Its governor Masaaki Shirakawa, who has appeared at odds with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's views, is resigning next month, giving the government an opportunity to find a successor more sympathetic to Abe's push for ultra-loose monetary policy.
South Korea's Kospi swung between gains and losses to be marginally lower at 1,975.02. Australia's S&P/ASX 300 advanced 0.8 percent to 5,045.40 largely due to gains in the resource sector. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.9 percent to 23,433.27 amid muted trading. Markets in Singapore and the Philippines fell while mainland China and Taiwan remained closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said the local market was being led higher by financial stocks on "a rumor" that Chinese banks would be given permission to increase lending. Agricultural Bank of China rose 3.7 percent. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest bank by market value, advanced 2.3 percent.
The Hang Seng, reopening after a three-day holiday, displayed no sign of distress over North Korea's underground nuclear test that took place Tuesday.
"Unless they throw a nuclear bomb at South Korea or Japan, nobody thinks much of it," Lun said.
Among individual stocks, Australian aluminum producer Alumina surged 7.9 percent after Chinese financial company CITIC paid $452 million Australian dollars for a major stake in the company.