Asian stocks mostly higher on optimism helped by Japan's first trade surplus in 3 years

EnergyAssociated Press

Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday after Japan reported its first trade surplus in three years, adding optimism to regional sentiment despite a fall on Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.1 percent to 20,133.90. South Korea's Kospi was little changed at 2,143.89. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2 percent to 27,915.27 and China's Shanghai Composite jumped 2 percent to 4,377.41. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 5,837.50.

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JAPAN TRADE: Japan posted its first monthly trade surplus in nearly three years in March, thanks to falling import costs from cheaper oil prices, along with a modest recovery in exports. It is unclear how long surpluses will continue as Japan's oil and gas import bill could rise again due to the weak yen. But a U.S. recovery has helped boost Japan's exports, and the government has been aggressively encouraging tourism.

THE QUOTE: "Japanese exports for March, out this morning, came in showing an increase of 8.5 percent," said Nicholas Teo, market analyst with CMC Markets in Singapore. "With the tourist season heading into full swing, the advantage of a lower yen will also have a huge impact on these numbers in the months ahead."

WALL STREET: U.S. shares drooped on some negative earnings reports. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 3.11 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 2,097.29. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85.34 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,949.59 while the Nasdaq composite gained 19.50 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,014.10.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 79 cents to $55.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The May contract fell $1.12 to close at $55.26 in New York on its last day of trading Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 50 cents to $61.58 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0752 from $1.0736 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 119.50 yen from 119.70 yen.