Asia stocks up as US small business mood improves

Passersby are reflected on the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Enthusiasm on Wall Street sparked by another positive report on the U.S. economy helped push most Asian stock markets higher Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2.3 percent to 15,096.97. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Passersby are reflected on the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Enthusiasm on Wall Street sparked by another positive report on the U.S. economy helped push most Asian stock markets higher Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2.3 percent to 15,096.97. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

A man walks by the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Enthusiasm on Wall Street sparked by another positive report on the U.S. economy helped push most Asian stock markets higher Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2.3 percent to 15,096.97. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

People walk on a street of Tokyo's Ginza shopping district Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Enthusiasm on Wall Street sparked by another positive report on the U.S. economy helped push most Asian stock markets higher Wednesday as Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2.3 percent to 15,096.97 in the morning session. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

A woman walks by the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Enthusiasm on Wall Street sparked by another positive report on the U.S. economy helped push most Asian stock markets higher Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 2.3 percent to 15,096.97. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

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(AP) — Enthusiasm on Wall Street sparked by another positive report on the U.S. economy helped push most Asian stock markets higher Wednesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business reported a slight improvement in confidence among small business owners in the U.S. in April. That helped boost the Dow Jones industrial average to close at a record high Tuesday.

"A combination of further improvement of economic performance and low inflation in the US should keep risk appetite buoyant," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong in an email commentary.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 1.9 percent to 15,041.95. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 percent to 23,079.31. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia also rose.

South Korea's Kospi dipped less than 0.1 percent to 1,967.92 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.7 percent to 5,182.50.

Good economic data aside, stocks are also benefiting from the economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve and other global central banks.

Under a program called "quantitative easing," the Fed has bought hundreds of billions of dollars of bonds, pushing up their prices and sending their yields lower. That makes stocks more attractive to investors than bonds and keeps interest rates low throughout the economy, encouraging investment and spending.

"Quantitative easing will not ease in the next two or three years," said Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. "Quantitative easing is everywhere, in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Money depreciates so it gives some kind of boost to the stock market."

Also helping to shore up the mood were figures, released Tuesday, showing industrial production among the 17 countries that use the euro rose a better-than-expected 1 percent in March. The first estimate of the euro currency region's gross domestic product in the first three months is due for release Wednesday.

Among individual stocks, Australian-based mining giant BHP Billiton fell 2.1 percent after the company's new chief executive, Andrew Mackenzie, outlined plans to slash capital spending by nearly 20 percent in order to maximize returns on investment and improving cash flow.

Japan's Isuzu Motors Ltd. soared 21 percent a day after reporting a strong recovery in its earnings. Sony Corp. was up nearly 11 percent after Daniel Loeb, the U.S. hedge fund manager renowned for shaking up Yahoo Inc., proposed that Sony sell up to 20 percent of its entertainment business. Sony has rebuffed the idea.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8 percent, to 15,215.25. The S&P 500 index jumped 1 percent, to 1,650.34. Both closed at all-time highs after stalling on Monday. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.7 percent, to 3,462.61.

Benchmark oil for June delivery rose was up 11 cents to $94.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 96 cents to close at $94.21 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2932 from $1.2937 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell slightly to 102.20 yen from 102.24 yen.

___

Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

Associated Press

Authors: provided on tsx today section of eStockMarkets

What is S&P/TSX Composite Index?

S&P/TSX Composite Index

The TSX stock exchange defines an index as a statistical measure of the state of the stock market, based on the performance of certain stocks. The performance of the index is typically viewed as a broad indicator of the direction of the economy. Originally known as the TSE 300 the composite index was created in 1977, with a base level of 1000 as of 1975. Through the years the index consisted of a sample of 300 companies, though the companies that comprised the index varied from year to year. Stocks were dropped when they no longer met exchange requirements for size and liquidity.

Effective May 1st, 2002 the index has been managed by Standard & Poor's Corp. of New York. The name was changed from the TSE 300 to the S&P/TSX Composite Index. Along with the S&P branding came new rules. Tougher criteria for meeting size and liquidity standards were imposed and there is now no fixed number of companies in the index. Since May 2002 the number of companies has dropped from 300 to 212 as of November of 2003.

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