Robust China Trade Data Spark Asia-Wide Gains
Australian stocks touched multi-year highs on Wednesday while Japan's benchmark Nikkei closed at a fresh near five-year high after China's trade balance swung to a surplus in April, soothing investor concerns about a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.
(Read More: Watch Out: the Nikkei Train Is in Full Speed)
Chinese exports exceeded market forecasts, jumping 14.7 percent in April from a year earlier but some experts are questioning the accuracy of the data after Beijing recently acknowledged widespread overloading of exports as way to circumvent currency controls.
"Chinese numbers have always been quite suspectful and this time around, you will have people doubting the numbers but markets are really looking for something to latch on and these numbers have given it a boost," said Sani Hamid, director of wealth management, economy and market strategy at Financial Alliance.
A bull run on Wall Street also added to Asia's risk appetite. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 15,000 for the first time ever and the S&P 500 finished at 1,625, a fresh all-time-high. So far this year, both indices have surged more than 14 percent each.
(Read More: World Party: Stocks in US, Germany Hit New Record)
"The liquidity theme continues to buoy stocks; good economic data led stocks further; bad news keeps liquidity expectations alive. For now, I see no convincing catalysts to put an early end to the rally," wrote Uwe Parparat, chief strategist and head of research at Reorient Financial Markets in a research note.
Nikkei Up 0.7%
Japan's benchmark index is now over 38 percent above its 200-day moving average, which signals that the market is heavily overbought. The Nikkei's next frontier to cross will be the 14,500 level but this will hinge on further yen weakness. So far, the currency has met heavy resistance against the dollar at the 99-handle.
Electronic stocks were some of the biggest percentage gainers, with Sharp posting gains of 6 percent and Oki Electric surging 9.8 percent.
However, Toshiba fell 5 percent after the Nikkei daily said the firm would post worse-than-expected operating profit for the year ended March 31.
Australia Hits 5,200
The S&P ASX 200 briefly touched the 5,201 mark, its highest closing level since June 2008.
Resource stocks shot up with Atlas Iron leading gains by 12.6 percent after imports from China, the world's top buyer of iron ore, rose 4 percent from the previous month.
Meanwhile, Seven West Media surged 10 percent after forecasting a $75 million gain in net in the 2014 financial year.
"Their (banks) run has been stellar, adding 30 to 48 percent since July last year. The feeling now is where to next? They will be unable to punch higher with no dividends for another four to six months. Investors may therefore start to rotate out in May and come back in August," wrote Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG.
China Stocks Extend Gains
Mainland stocks posted a fourth session of gains, briefly touching a six-week high at 2,255 points. Manufacturers rallied after the robust April trade figures with data analysis provider Sytech and Yili Energy leading gains by 10 percent each.
A 1.7 percent rally in market heavyweight HSBC supported the Hang Seng Index after the lender reported a near doubling of quarterly earnings on Tuesday. The stock has a 15 percent weighting on the Hang Seng.
(Read More: Why HSBC's Results Are Not as Good as They Seem)
Shares of Esprit tanked 4.8 percent after the fashion retailer said it expected to record a substantial loss in the second half of the year to June.
Kospi Edges Up
In South Korea, stocks were in positive territory, but still down over 1 percent since hitting a one-month high at 1,983 last week.
Caution set in as investors look ahead to the Bank of Korea's (BOK) policy meeting on Thursday.
"The BoK certainly has scope to cut rates given that external headwinds remain as a drag on growth and inflation is well behaved. What's more, the Japanese yen's slippage vis-à-vis the Korean won may be a consideration for policy-makers trying to restore relative competitiveness lost in the last few months," wrote Vishnu Varathan, market economist at Mizuho in a note.