Asian stocks gain after China's export growth, Fed minutes; Indonesia up after election

Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday after China's exports showed a slight pickup. Indonesian stocks surged despite a contested presidential election result.

Japan went against the current with Tokyo's Nikkei 225 down 0.4 percent to 15,234.94 after May machinery orders fell more than expected.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,003.63 even after the central bank lowered this year's growth outlook. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 23,227.91 and China's Shanghai Composite drifted 0.1 percent higher to 2,040.92. Stocks in Australia, Singapore and Thailand also gained ground.

In Indonesia, the benchmark stock index surged 2 percent after the unofficial results of the country's presidential election showed a narrow victory for Joko Widodo. Despite his rival's refusal to concede, investors seemed to think the result was clear cut and are welcoming Widodo as a possible reformer.

China's June exports grew 7.2 percent in dollar terms from a year earlier, accelerating slightly from May's 7 percent growth, according to China's customs office. The growth was a small sign of improvement for the world's No. 2 economy. There were still concerns about China's uneven recovery as imports remained lackluster in a sign of weak domestic demand.

Still, that did not seem to dent investor appetite for risky assets after several days of losses in Asian stock markets.

"There's a bit of optimism with China's customs office expecting exports growth to accelerate in the third quarter. Imports could also pick up based on improving signs of manufacturing and services activity in the past two months," Ryan Huang, a market strategist at IG, said in a commentary.

Earlier, the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's last policy meeting showed officials were looking to end the central bank's monthly bond buying in October, if the economy continues to improve. The massive bond purchases have nurtured an economic recovery since 2008 and also driven up stock markets by depressing returns on bonds.

The tone of the minutes, however, did not deter investors from adding stocks. The minutes also suggested that Fed officials neared an agreement over the timing of the central bank's first rate hike since the 2008 financial crisis. Desmond Chua, a market analyst at CMC Markets said investors seemed to have ignored those messages and were too complacent.

Wall Street gained ground Wednesday as corporate earnings lifted investor sentiment. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to close at 16,985.61. The S&P 500 added 0.5 percent to 1,972.83 and the Nasdaq composite finished 0.6 percent higher at 4,419.03.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 44 cents at $101.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.11 to close at $102.29 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3646 from $1.3643. The dollar fell to 101.53 yen from 101.58 yen.