Asia Ends Mostly Higher; Techs Outperform

Asian stocks traded mostly higher Wednesday, with gains in China after media reports that inflation had eased in December and a rally in tech shares caused by Apple's better than expected earnings.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 index rose 0.9 percent.

China Shares End Higher

Shares in China and Hong Kong rose on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's release of inflation and GDP data for December. The Shanghai Composite closed up 1.8 percent, helped by reports that inflation in December had eased to 4.6% from 5.1% in the previous month.

The benchmark Indexappeared to have found firm support at the crucial 2,700-point level as traders reported cash flowing into the stock market from the weak bond market.

China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp and China North Locomotive, the country's top two train makers, both jumped by their 10 percent daily limit as the day's most actively traded stocks, and ranked among top gainers. Railways are among several sectors that Beijing is promoting in 2011. State media have reported that the country will invest 700 billion yuan ($106 billion) in building railways this year alone.

The rising mainland market lifted Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index , with cyclical shares such as shippers and metal producers, whose profits are closely linked with rising economic activity, outperforming the broader market.

Heavy buying was seen in PetroChina up 1.7 percent on over twice its average daily 30-day volume, and Sinopec, which ended the day 4.4 percent higher. Both shares were helped by a rise in oil prices to near $92 per barrel.

China Mobile, a major laggard among the large caps in Hong Kong, rose 2.6 percent and provided the biggest boost to the Hang Seng Index on the day.

KOSPI Climbs 0.9%, Tech Stocks Gain

Seoul shares rose and posted a new all-time closing high, led by gains in the technology sector.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished up 0.92 percent at 2,115.69 points.

Shares in Samsung Electronics ended up 2.9 percent to 997,000 won after hitting the key 1 million won ($900) mark, buoyed by a strong outlook for TV sales and an improving memory chip sector, analysts said.

Other technology issues also rallied on strengthening appetite for technology plays, with LG Electronics, the world's No.3 handset maker, up 5.7 percent and LG Display up 3.4 percent.

Shares in Korea Express, the country's top logistics firm, jumped 14.6 percent on rising expectations over its stake sale after local media reported that a major creditor of its parent Kumho Asiana Group is getting approval from other creditors on the sale and will pick a sale manager by next week.

Elsewhere, shares in POSCO gained 2 percent buoyed by news the world's No.3 steelmaker was expected to resume construction of a new steel plant with capacity of 1.8 million tons per year in February and start operations late in the month.

Shipyards rallied lifted by order news. Hyundai Heavy Industries rose 2.3 percent after the company said on Wednesday that it has won an order worth 1.1 trillion won from U.S. offshore drilling contractor Noble Drilling for two drill ships.

Tokyo stocksclimbed higher on Wednesday, inching towards recent eight-month highs as a mostly upbeat start to the U.S. earnings season lifted expectations for Japanese firms to show further recovery.

The benchmark Nikkei ended the day up 0.4 percent or 38.12 points at 10,557.10. The broader Topix index rose 0.6 percent to 936.87.

Textile shares outperformed, helped by an across-the-board hike in share price targets by Goldman Sachs on attractive valuations. Toray Industries, Japan's largest maker of synthetic fibres, jumped 4.7 percent to 556 yen and Teijin surged 6.6 percent to 421 yen, becoming the biggest percentage gainer among the Nikkei 225 components.

Non-ferrous metals smelters were also among the Nikkei's top gainers, with the sector index adding 2.5 percent as copper hovered near record highs on Wednesday on a weaker dollar. Sumitomo Metal Mining gained 4.9 percent to 1,456 yen and Dowa Holdings climbed 5.2 percent to 592 yen.

Social network and gaming company Gree was up 3.4 percent at 1,174 yen after announcing on Tuesday it would go into the smartphone ad network business, connecting advertisers with websites that want to run advertisements.

Australia Shares Close Higher

Australian shares recovered from a lacklustre start to close 0.7 percent higher as retail stocks and big banks bounced back from recent losses, while investors piled into miners on the back of strong commodity prices.

Stocks gained despite a decline in consumer confidence for the month of January. Consumer sentiment fell 5.7 percent, the biggest fall in about six months, according to a Westpac-Melbourne Institute report.

Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton both finished up 0.9 percent after commodity prices rose overnight, although Fortescue Metals lost 1.1 percent following a rally in the previous session on a strong production report. BHP reports its quarterly production figures on Thursday.

Fortescue's joint venture partner BC Ironwas placed in a trading halt on Wednesday ahead of an expected announcement on a takeover from Hong Kong-based shareholder Regent Pacific Group.

Retailers bounced back following recent losses on concern about the impact of online shopping on their local businesses. David Jones rose 3.0 percent to A$4.84, while Harvey Norman gained 3.5 percent to A$3.22. The top gainer was outdoor clothing retailer Kathmandu Holdings , jumping 15.9 percent to close at A$1.60 after saying it expected to see significantly higher profit in the six months to Jan. 31.

Major banks, which fell earlier in the week on concern about exposure to Queensland floods, also gained, led by ANZ which rose 1.1 percent.

Singapore shares edged higher as investors wait on the sidelines for the full-year results of companies.

Singapore Exchange, Asia's second-largest listed bourse operator, was one of the leading gainers, rising as much as 2.7 percent on plans to start all-day trading on March 1 and the potential $6 billion listing of Hutchison Whampoa's port trust unit in Singapore.

Shares of Cosco, a Singapore-listed Chinese shipbuilder, rose as much as 4.7 percent after DBS Vickers said the firm could benefit from the restructuring of its parent, Cosco Group. The group may inject two of its shipbuilding assets into the Singapore-listed unit.

Shares of Singapore hotel operator Overseas Union Enterprise, however, underperformed the broader market, falling as much as 4.5 percent after IFR reported that Credit Suisse International was selling a $116 million stake in the company.