TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday after Japan reported its first trade surplus in three years, adding optimism to regional sentiment despite a fall on Wall Street.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.1 percent to 20,123.37 in morning trading. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.7 percent to 2,158.77. Hong Kong Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent to 27,994.82 and China's Shanghai Composite jumped 1.6 percent to 4,362.76. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8 percent to 5,825.30.
JAPAN TRADE: Japan posted its first monthly trade surplus in nearly three years in March, thanks to falling import costs from cheaper oil prices, along with a modest recovery in exports. It is unclear how long surpluses will continue as Japan's oil and gas import bill could rise again due to the weak yen. But a U.S. recovery has helped boost Japan's exports, and the government has been aggressively encouraging tourism.
THE QUOTE: "Japanese exports for March, out this morning, came in showing an increase of 8.5 percent," said Nicholas Teo, market analyst with CMC Markets in Singapore. "With the tourist season heading into full swing, the advantage of a lower yen will also have a huge impact on these numbers in the months ahead."
WALL STREET: U.S. shares drooped on some negative earnings reports. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 3.11 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 2,097.29. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85.34 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,949.59 while the Nasdaq composite gained 19.50 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,014.10.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 66 cents to $55.95 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The May contract fell $1.12 to close at $55.26 in New York on its last day of trading Monday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 39 cents to $61.69 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.0726 from $1.0736 in the previous global trading session. The dollar was little changed at 119.66 yen from 119.70 yen.