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Asia stocks higher after Dow hits record; Nikkei at 4-1/2-year high

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Shutterstock photo - Asian stock markets were broadly higher during late Asian trade on Wednesday, as appetite for equities improved after the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to an all-time high on Wall Street on Tuesday.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1%, Australia's ASX/200 Index ended up 0.8%, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index closed 2.1% higher.

Gains in Asian equities came after the Dow rallied to a record high on Tuesday, boosted by stronger-than-expected U.S. service sector data.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei rose to the highest level since September 2008, amid ongoing expectations for more aggressive monetary easing from the Bank of Japan.

Struggling electronics maker Sharp saw shares rally 14% following news reports that it was in talks with South Korea's Samsung Electronics for a potential investment of nearly JPY10 billion in the firm.

Index heavyweight Fast Retailing saw shares jump 8.1%, one day after gaining 5.5% after reporting an almost 10% increase in sales at its Uniqlo casual clothing chain in February.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the benchmark ASX/200 Index climbed to the highest level since September 2008 after data showed the nation's economy expanded 0.6% in the fourth quarter of 2012, meeting expectations.

The big four banks all rose, with Australia's biggest lender, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia gaining 0.9%, while Westpac Banking Group and ANZ Banking Group advanced 1.3% and 1.2% respectively.

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng tracked shares in mainland China higher as the annual session of the National People's Congress entered its second day.

Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday that China will target economic growth of 7.5% for 2013, in line with expectations.

The China financial sector were among the biggest gainers on the index, with China Construction Bank shares rising 2.2%, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China climbing 2% and Bank of China adding 2.5%.

Looking ahead, European stock market futures pointed to a higher open, as sentiment was supported by hopes for further easing by world central banks.

The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.35% at the open, France's CAC 40 futures added 0.4%, London's FTSE 100 futures eased up 0.25%, while Germany's DAX futures pointed to a gain of 0.4% at the open.

The euro zone was to release revised data on fourth quarter growth later in the day, while the U.S. was to publish a report on ADP nonfarm payrolls and official data on factory orders. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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