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 11,313.68. 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 ends a policy meeting Thursday but analysts said no new initiatives were expected in light of an impending leadership change.
Central bank 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 rose 0.4 percent to 1,984.63. Australia's S&P/ASX 300 advanced 0.6 percent to 5,033.70. Hong Kong's Hang Seng, opening after a three-day holiday, rose 1 percent to 23,448.71. Markets in Singapore and the Philippines fell while China and Taiwan remained closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
Global stocks mostly pushed higher on Wednesday on upbeat corporate earnings and evidence that U.S. consumer spending is withstanding tax increases. The latest figures showed U.S. retail sales rose 0.1 percent last month despite a hike in payroll taxes. While the rise was the smallest in three months, analysts said it nevertheless showed underlying resilience in consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the world's largest economy.
Sentiment was also supported by news that Comcast Corp, America's biggest cable TV operator, agreed to buy half of NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion. Investors took the deal as a vote of confidence in the economy and the media industry.
Solid U.S. earnings also boosted sentiment. Cisco System Inc.'s latest quarterly earnings rose 44 percent to exceed analyst forecasts. Duke Energy's fourth-quarter earnings beat analysts' expectations as electricity rates rose and more extreme weather increased demand for power.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3 percent to 13,982.91. The Dow was dragged down by fast-food giant McDonald's, which fell on fears that Americans would pull back on restaurant spending. The S&P 500 gained 0.1 percent to 1,520.33. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 percent to 3,196.88.
Benchmark oil for March delivery was up 16 cents in electronic trading to $97.17 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 50 cents to finish at $97.01 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.
In currencies, the euro was slightly higher at $1.3449 from $1.3447 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar was little changed at 93.48 yen.
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