Asia Climbs on Strong Chinese Data

Asian shares climbed on Thursday, with Tokyo and Taipei up over 1 percent, as better-than-expected Chinese exports added to optimism that the global economic recovery is on track.

Japan's Nikkei average ended 1.1 percent higher, moving away from six-month lows hit the
previous day, after strong Chinese exports boosted hopes for the global recovery.

But trading house giant Mitsui & Co tumbled nearly 6 percent, becoming the biggest drag on the Nikkei as the fallout from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill spread and shares of BP plunged. Mitsui owns 10 percent of the leaking well.

The benchmark Nikkei rose 103.52 points to 9,542.65 after hitting a six-month low of 9,378.23 on Wednesday.

The broader Topix gained 0.8 percent to 856.79.

Blue-chip exporters turned around as the yen eased broadly. Canon rose 0.5 percent and Kyocera gained 0.9 percent. Toyota climbed 0.6 percent. But Sony finished 1.6 percent lower.

Defensives like detergent and cosmetics maker Kao Corp rose 1.9 percent to 2,021 yen while Japan Tobacco advanced 2.56 percent to 296,300 yen.

Seoul Ends Higher

Seoul shares closed 0.3 percent higher, helped by firm gains in crude refiners such as SK Energy but continued selling by foreign investors weighed.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished up 0.27 percent at 1,651.70 points.

Investor reaction was muted, to the South Korean central bank's decision to hold interest rates steady on Thursday, in the face of strengthening recovery at home and concerns about Europe's debt woes and volatile financial markets.

Technology stocks bounced, with Hynix Semiconductor, the world's No.2 memory chip maker, rising 2.5 percent. Shares of the world's No.3 handset maker, LG Electronics, turned around to end 0.3 percent higher, after falling 1.62 percent earlier.

In the banking space, Woori Finance retreated 3.5 percent, hurt by a local media report that its unit Kyongnam Bank was involved in a financial scandal that could cost the bank hundreds of billions of won.

Australia Up 1.1%

Australian shares advanced 1.1 percent, led by resources stocks on higher metals prices. Strong Chinese output and trade data and better-than-expected Australian job figures also lent support to that market.

China's output rose by 16.5 percent from a year earlier in May, a tad behind expectations, but still at a robust pace, while both exports and imports were up 48 percent, ahead of forecasts
and boosting investor confidence.

At home, the economy created 26,900 jobs in May, well ahead of expectations, and unemployment ticked down to 5.2 percent, ahead of forecasts for a 5.4 percent rate.

Miners BHP Billiton advanced 1.3 percent and smaller rival Rio Tinto gained 2.2 percent. Fortescue Metals rose 1.2 percent to A$3.96.

Firmer oil prices helped Woodside Petroleum and Santos rise 2.4 percent each.

The benchmark S&P ASX 200 index climbed 50 points to 4,435.30. The index rose 0.1 percent on Wednesday.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index pared early gains to finish flat at 3,002.3 points. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand hiked interest rates by 25 basis points in its first rate move since the global financial crisis.

Shanghai Weak on Profit-Taking

The key Shanghai Composite bucked the upward trend, falling nearly 1 percent, as banks and property stocks slid on profit-taking following a 2.8 percent jump the day before.

The Hong Kong market erased early losses to edge up 0.2 percent.

China's upbeat export data was largely priced in by investors. News that Chinese exports in May grew about 50 percent from a year earlier, a day before the data's official release, had spurred a late rally and helped the Hang Seng to close 0.7 percent on Wednesday.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index stood at 1,966.9 points after easing 0.3 percent to 19,557.47.

CNOOC climbed 1.0 percent at HK$12.48 on strengthening crude prices.

Online game company Tencent continued to weigh on the Hang Seng for a fourth session, falling 6.3 percent in heavy volume after analysts cut their earnings forecasts for the company this week to reflect slower gaming revenue growth.

In Taiwan, stocks jumped 1.5 percent, with gains in Chinese shares lifting market sentiment.

Compal led electronics shares higher after the world's No.2 contract laptop maker said May sales almost doubled from a year earlier.

AU Optronics, Taiwan's No.2 LCD maker, jumped 2 percent on media reports the company sees stronger demand in the third quarter, helped by reducing inventories in China. AU was
not immediately available for comment.

The main TAIEX share index climbed 110.10 points to 7,181.77.

Across in Southeast Asia, markets in Singapore and Malaysia chalked up gains.