Asia Up on Earnings Expectations, China Inflation

ASX 200
CNBC 100

Asian stock markets traded higher on Tuesday with Japanese stocks hitting near five-year highs as investors shifted their focus to the first quarter earnings season that is expected to show modest growth.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 erased earlier gains to close flat - as the yen continued to slump against the U.S. dollar. The dollar-yen was trading around 99.35, edging closer to the key psychological level of 100.

The property sector, viewed as the biggest beneficiary of Japan's push to reflate the economy made gains, with real estate investment fund Kenedix up 2.8 percent.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200, meanwhile led Asian gains, ending 1.4 percent higher boosted by resource stocks after U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa posted a profit of $149 million, or 13 cents a share in the first quarter, from $94 million, or 9 cents, a year earlier.

Shares of Sundance Resources, however, dived more than 45 percent, after resuming trade following a three-week halt. The firm said late Monday it has ended negotiations on a $1.4 billion takeover by private Chinese firm Hanlong Group, and is in talks with other parties.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index erased earlier gains to close flat at 4,395.20.

South Korea's benchmark KOSPI Index ended higher on hopes of an interest rate cut by the country's central bank, but gains were capped by tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang on Monday said it will withdraw all of its workers from the Kaesong joint industrial zone. South Korea called the decision unjustifiable, noting that North Korea will be held responsible for all the consequences.

LG Electronics ended up 3.3 percent on an improving outlook for its smartphones.

China's Shanghai Composite closed up 0.6 percent on easing inflation, after closing at its lowest level since December on Monday as worries over bird flu hurt investor confidence.

The country's consumer inflation eased to 2.1 percent in March, from February's 3.2 percent, while producer price deflation deepened.

Insurers and brokerages were among the leaders with China Pacific Insurance Group up 4.3 percent, while Ping An Insurance gained 2.7 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, closed higher 0.7 percent, marking its first gain in four sessions.

Growth sensitive sectors outperformed with Chinese cement producers Anhui Conch Cement and China National Building Material jumping over 5 percent.