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Market Update

Asia Stocks Lock in Gains Amid Earnings, Data

Asian indexes closed firmly in the positive territory Wednesday as investors cheered some upbeat regional corporate earnings and positive data in the U.S., where super-storm Sandy that ravaged the eastern coast began to peter out.

Japan’s Nikkei rose gained 1% and so did the Hang Seng in Hong Kong. Mumbai's Sensex climbed 0.4% while the S&P/ASX All Ordinaries added 0.7% in Sydney. The Shanghai Composite also gave up its early weariness and edged up 0.3% in the final hours of trading.

U.S. financial markets were expected to resume trading Wednesday after remaining shut for two days in the wake of a massive storm. Although the hurricane continues to hammer parts of the north-eastern region with high winds and heavy rainfall, it has began to lose grip, even as workers slogged around the clock to help get life back on track.

That boosted confidence in the Asian session, also partly supported by upbeat data in the world's largest economy. Home prices increased at a faster pace in the month of August in almost all cities of the U.S., a sign that the country's housing market is recovering.

Back in Asia, the Bank of Japan yesterday announced plans to expand its asset-purchasing program to 91 trillion yen to boost economic growth.

Investors were also keeping a watch on developments in Europe, which is a key market for Asian exporters. Spain said it expects to receive the first instalment of the European Union aid package for its banks by early December. Meanwhile, data released earlier showed the Spanish economy contracted by a slightly lesser-than-expected 0.3% in the third quarter.

Stocks on the move

Export-focussed firms in Tokyo pushed higher with car manufacturers racing ahead. Mazda Motor Corp. zoomed up 4.4% while Honda Motor accelerated 2.4%.

Among others, Panasonic Corp. rose 4.5%, Sony Corp. enhanced 2.8% and Toshiba Corp. improved 4.6%. Chipmakers Tokyo Electron and Advantest Corp. climbed up 1.3% and 2.4% respectively.

On the earnings front, East Japan Railway posted slight gains in profit. Shares of the company were up 1.5%.

Komatsu also posted quarterly earnings, which dropped more than 30% --in line with expectations. Shares of the industrial machinery maker ended up more than 3%.

Fuji Heavy Industries surged nearly 7% after the company upgraded its fiscal-year profit outlook.

In corporate news, Hitachi Ltd. announced the acquisition of U.K. based Horizon Nuclear Power. Shares of Hitachi jumped over 3% following the announcement.

In Hong Kong, ICBC rose 2% after posting better-than-expected results while Aluminum Corp. of China edged up 0.3% despite posting disappointing results.

But oil giant PetroChina lost more than 2% after its quarterly profits declined.

In Mumbai, drug maker Dr. Reddys Lab jumped 2% on account of strong quarterly results.

Car maker Maruti Suzuki, which also posted upbeat quarterly earnings, ended up 3%. Other auto players also moved higher. Tata Motors drove up 2.8% while Mahindra & Mahindra climbed 1.2%.

Among IT stocks, Satyam Computer Services edged up 1.4% after updating investors. Wipro rose 1% but Infosys was little changed.

In Sydney, National Australia Bank retreated 0.4% after posting a 22% drop in net fiscal-year profit.

But other banks were higher -- Westpac Banking and ANZ gained 0.6% each while Commonwealth Bank improved 0.8%.

Miners and energy stocks were also mostly on the upside. BHP Billiton climbed 0.8% and Rio Tinto added 0.1%. Gold miner Newcrest Mining enhanced over a percent.

Among energy firms, Santos Ltd. ended up 0.3% while Woodside Petroleum also climbed 0.3%.

Global media company NewsCorp was 0.3% higher after reports said that shareholders of Consolidated Media Holdings approved NewsCorp.’s takeover of the company.