TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday, supported by strong corporate earnings and the Federal Reserve's decision to pause its slow-moving campaign to raise interest rates.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent to 20,065.21 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.5 percent to 27,066.71. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,439.39 and the S&P ASX 200 of Australia climbed 0.3 percent to 5,795.30. Taiwan's index climbed 0.9 percent after electronics maker Foxconn announced a $10 billion investment in Wisconsin that is expected to create 3,000 jobs. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.3 percent to 3,237.04 and shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
WALL STREET: U.S. stock indexes inched further into record territory Wednesday after AT&T, Boeing and others joined the parade of big companies reporting stronger profits than analysts expected. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up less than 0.1 percent to 2,477.83, adding a whisper to the record high set a day earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.5 percent to 21,711.01, and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.2 percent to 6,422.75.
FEDERAL RESERVE: Wrapping up a two-day policy meeting, the Federal Reserve said that it may begin paring the massive $4.5 trillion balance sheet it built up following the financial crisis "relatively soon," which some analysts took to mean September. The Fed also said that inflation will likely remain below its target of 2 percent in the near term. Those comments caused Treasury yields to drop, with the the 10-year yield falling to 2.29 percent from 2.33 percent late Tuesday. The two-year yield sank to 1.35 percent from 1.39 percent. Lower bond yields make dividends paid by stocks more attractive, and the biggest dividend payers picked up momentum following the Fed's announcement
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "The theme remains with earnings, propelling markets once again to fresh highs within the U.S. while the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting conclusion overnight provided another relief for equity markets. Asian markets are expected be ride on the positive leads and continue the climb in the day," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.
SAMSUNG'S STRENGTH: Despite the arrest of its chief in a corruption scandal and the recalls and discontinuation of fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, Samsung Electronics reported record high quarterly earnings thanks to booming demand for memory chips. The South Korean company said its April-June net income was 10.8 trillion won ($9.7 billion), up 85 percent from 5.8 trillion won a year earlier.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell back slightly after topping $48 per barrel for the first time in seven weeks overnight. It slipped 6 cents to $48.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after surging 86 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $48.75 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 7 cents to $51.03 per barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 110.86 Japanese yen from 111.17 yen on Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1759 from $1.1637, and the British pound rose to $1.3152 from $1.3117.
AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed from New York.