Asian Shares Cheer Strong China Trade Data With Wires

Asian shares ended higher on Thursday as much stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data magnified positive momentum from global markets overnight, strengthening signs of recovery in the world's second-largest economy.

China's exports grew 14.1 percent in December from a year ago to hit a seven-month peak, exceeding expectations.

In terms of market-moving events, Jason Hughes, Head of Premium Client Management, IG Markets warns that apart from the upcoming European Central Bank meeting later on Thursday, "there are still plenty of risks on the horizon, with the political stalemate over the US debt ceiling of $16.4 trillion one of the main concerns. Tomorrow, Wells Fargo reports its results, which will move the banks back into the spotlight."

The index gained 0.6 percent.

Japan's average rose as renewed weakness in the yen bolstered shares of exporters, while strong export data from China also helped to lift investor sentiment.

The benchmark index ended up 0.7 percent to 10,652.6 while the broader Topix jumped 1.1 percent to 889 points.

Japan Still Awaiting Sustainable Turnaround

Exporters leading gains included Nikon, Honda Motor, Komatsu, and Panasonic, all up between 1.5 to 2.4 percent.

Nihon Nohyaku soared 17 percent, its highest since April 2010, after Nomura raised its rating to 'buy', saying the company benefits substantially from yen depreciation amid strong growth in overseas sales.

Isuzu Motor jumped 3.8 percent as General Motors said it will discuss with Isuzu the possibility of jointly developing a next-generation pickup truck.

China shares ended slightly higher, helped by strength in steel counters after China export data beat expectations and Baoshan Iron & Steel (Baosteel) posted favourable 2012 earnings.

The CSI300 of top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings closed up 0.4 percent at 2,2530.6. The rose 0.4 percent. Both finished off the day's highs.

Shares of Baoshan Iron & Steel (Baosteel) gained 1.8 percent in Shanghai after it posted 2012 net profit that rose about 40 percent to 10.3 billion yuan ($1.65 billion), spurring gains for the sector.

Why China Trade Figures Aren't a Big Deal

Chinese airlines were also buoyed by a Citi upgrade of the sector. Air China climbed 5.5 percent while China Eastern Airlines soared 8.2 percent.

Hong Kong shares had their best daily gain in a week, helped by growth-sensitive counters after data showing a far stronger than expected trade performance by China in December.

The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.6 percent at 23,354.3, its best day since January 2. The China Enterprises Index of the top Chinese listings in Hong Kong climbed 1 percent.

China's exports grew 14.1 percent last month compared with a year earlier, while shippers and growth-sensitive mining counters were among the biggest percentage risers, with Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) soaring 6.5 percent to a 10-month high.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines were bolstered by an upgrade by Citi analysts based on an expected improvement in earnings. China Eastern spiked 8.2 percent after Citi upgraded its Hong Kong listing from a "neutral" to a "buy" and raised its target price by almost 40 percent.

Seoul shares rose to end a five-session losing streak, as stronger-than-expected trade data from China pointed to recovering demand in the world's second-largest economy.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index gained 0.7 percent to close at 2,006.8 points.

Stocks in 60 Seconds: KEPCO

Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics closed up 2 percent after falling 4.8 percent in the five sessions through Wednesday.

State-run utility Korea Electric Power (KEPCO) rose 3.6 percent near the mid-session after South Korea announced it will raise electricity prices by an average 4 percent from next week to reduce power demand and help KEPCO cut losses.

Shares in Ssangyong Motor rose by the daily trading limit of 15 percent after the automotive president of parent company Mahindra & Mahindra said Mahindra would invest $900 million over the next four years in products to be developed jointly with Ssangyong.

Australian shares rose 0.3 percent, revived by much stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data which signalled economic strength in Australia's top customer.

The benchmark index was up 14.8 points at 4,723.

Rio Tinto rose 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals advanced 2.3 percent after data showed China's imports of iron ore rose 7.8 percent in December to a record 70.94 million tonnes.

Aspire Mining skyrocketed 39 percent after Noble Group agreed to provide additional support for its coking coal project.

Construction firm Macmahon Holdings rallied 1.8 percent after it said it had a new, two-part proposal from Sembawang Australia to buy its construction business.

New Zealand's NZX 50 index finished up 0.3 percent to 4,119 after posting a bigger-than-expected $583 million trade deficit in November, its fourth straight monthly trade deficit.

Over in Southeast Asia, Singapore's Straits Times Index ended 0.2 percent higher while Malaysia's KLCI Composite Index closed down 0.3 percent.

Both India's BSE Index and the 50-share NSE Index ended flat.