Asian stocks follow U.S. higher on upbeat econ data

Mar 27, 2013, 1:07 AM EDT

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian markets followed Wall Street higher on Wednesday after upbeat economic data from the world's largest economy.

Reports overnight from the U.S. showed home prices rose in January at the fastest rate since the country's housing boom peaked in 2006 while February factory orders for long-lasting goods were at their highest in five months.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.6 percent to 22,441.75 while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent to 1,993.08. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.3 percent to 2,304.87 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite rose 0.3 percent to 956.04.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.7 percent to 4,985.20 while benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also rose.

"So we had a good session in the US last night, certainly. I think the durable goods order figures were really supporting to the market," said Guy Stear, head of Asia research at Societe Generale. "We continue to see strong figures really, out of the production side in the US economy."

In Japan, gains were more muted, with the Nikkei 225 edging up 0.1 percent to 12,488.65 as investors stay on the sidelines, hoping for more than just talk from policymakers trying to stimulate the economy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to pull Japan out of deflation through monetary easing and higher government spending.

"If the Abe government is going to keep the yen down, it is going to have to pull the trigger sooner rather than later, as investors are going to start calling its bluff," IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas said in a commentary.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 94.84 yen from 94.50 yen in late trading Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.2841 from $1.2858.

China Southern Airlines fell 1.4 percent after it reported that 2012 profit plunged by half on higher jet fuel costs.

In the U.S., The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.8 percent to 14,559.65. The broader S&P 500 index rose 0.8 percent to 1,563.77 while the Nasdaq rose 0.5 percent to 3,252.48,

Oil prices slipped. Benchmark crude for May delivery fell 22 cents to $96.21 a barrel. The contract rose $1.53 to settle at $96.34 on the Nymex on Tuesday.