TOKYO – Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after a jump in oil prices helped push U.S. shares sharply higher and Japanese economic data showed improvement.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index surged 2.2 percent to 17,712.05 on gains in energy company shares and expectations for strong corporate earnings reports. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.9 percent to 24,784.48 and South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.5 percent to 1,962.54. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.2 percent to 5,777.60 and markets in Southeast Asia also rose.
OIL SURGE: U.S. benchmark oil surged 7 percent Tuesday on hopes for an end to a seven-month collapse in prices. Investors are hoping that oil prices have found a floor after falling as much as 60 percent from their recent peak last June. Prices have risen 19 percent in four days as producers have canceled exploration projects and cut the number of rigs drilling for oil.
THE QUOTE: Oil prices were "due for a bounce," Matthew Kaufler, a portfolio manager at Federated Investors. Kaufler suspects producers will have to idle more rigs before prices stabilize. "There's a lot of hope that it's the bottom, but these things aren't really obvious."
JAPAN GLIMMER: Japanese wages data Wednesday showed labor income rose 1.6 percent in December from a year earlier. Increases in household incomes are an important piece of Japan's economic recovery plan. However, economists cautioned that bonus payments, which account for about half of total income each December, overstate the improvement and that wages will moderate further in coming months.
WALL STREET: The S&P 500 index climbed 29.18 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,050.03 on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 305.36 points, or 1.8 percent, to 17,666.40. The Nasdaq rose 51.05 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,727.74.
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ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude eased back Wednesday in Asia, falling 93 cents to $52.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used as a benchmark for international prices, slipped 23 cents to $57.68.
CURRENCIES: The euro was little changed at $1.1461, compared with $1.1463 the previous day. The dollar rose to 117.94 yen from 117.74 yen.
AP Business Writer Bernard Condon in New York contributed.