Asian Stocks Higher on Fed's Comments

Asian stocks rose Thursday after better than expected U.S. earnings and the Federal Reserve's decision to maintain a $600 billion bond-buying program.

Japan's Nikkei average gained 0.7 percent on Thursday, recouping the previous day's losses as upbeat U.S. earnings brightened sentiment ahead of Japanese corporate results.

Japan's earnings season was kicking into higher gear on Thursday with results from printer and camera maker Canon as well as game maker Nintendo announcing October to December earnings after the market's close.

Some market players said that foreign investors, who now account for over 60 percent of the Tokyo market, were picking up high-tech shares.

One of them, industrial robot maker Fanuc, surged 4.6 percent to 13,250 yen in heavy trade after its net profit for the October-December quarter more than doubled from a year earlier to 30.8 billion yen ($375 million) on strong demand in China, but the company left its full year forecast unchanged.

But Resona Holdings, Japan's fourth-biggest bank, bucked the positive market trend, plunging 4.7 percent to 426 yen on high volume, below the 440 yen price set for its public share offering, after the period to stabilize the share price ended.

Seoul shares ended up 0.2 percent on Thursday, mere points shy of an earlier record closing high, buoyed by solid foreign buying and robust gains in crude refiners including S-Oil .

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index earlier set a new all-time intraday high of 2,121.06 points. Foreign investors were buyers of a net 352.7 billion won ($316.3 million) worth of stocks, the biggest foreign net buying amount in three weeks and picking up shares for a third consecutive session.

Strong gains in crude refiners gave the index support on rosy earnings outlooks for the year and as rallies in U.S. crude oil prices pointed to higher product pricing, analysts said.

Shares in SK Innovation, the country's top crude refiner, rose 4.8 percent and GS Holdings, the parent firm of South Korea's No.2 crude refiner GS Caltex, advanced 5.4 percent.

Shares in S-Oiljumped 12 percent after the country's No.3 crude refiner reported that its fiscal 2010 operating profits rose 139.3 percent to 834.4 billion won.

Hyundai Motor shares closed lower, despite a nearly 50 percent jump in profit in the December quarter. Analysts said shares fell because they had rallied substantially recently, making them ripe for profit-taking.

Australian shares ended virtually flat, supported by mining stocks but weighed by sagging retailers and other stocks sensitive to consumer spending after the government announced a new tax as it begins a costly rebuild after severe flooding.

Retailers, which have been reporting lower customer spending, mostly fell, led by JB Hi-Fi with a 1.9 percent drop and children's clothing group Pumpkin Patch which fell 7.6 percent on a profit-warning.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.7 points to 4,806.1.

Engineer Downer EDI plunged 20 percent on a big charge over delays in delivering trains for Sydney's rail network.

Chinese shares rose for a second day on Thursday as Shanghai's main stock index bounced off of a key chart support and gains in commodity-related and telecom counters offset weakness in property.

Property shares underperformed after China announced new measures to cool the property sector. Gemdale, the most active stock on the Shanghai market, dropped 3.5 percent, while Shenzhen-listed China Vanke, the country's biggest developer, lost 2.5 percent.

But gains in Shanghai failed to lift the Hong Kong market, which closed in the red despite earlier gains as a pick-up in short-selling activity suggested investors were looking to sell into any strength. The Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent.

Chinese markets will be closed for a week from February 2 for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Singapore shares closed lower, weighed by China's fresh measures to cool the property market.

China property developers such as Yanlord Land and property firms with exposure to the mainland, like CapitaLand, fell on China's latest real estate crackdown.

However, container shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) outperformed on expectations the firm could report strong earnings when it announces results in February.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 index finished the day lower.