By Pamela Sampson, The Associated Press
BANGKOK - Asian stock markets powered higher Thursday after a U.S. communications company posted a surprise jump in earnings that led to big gains in technology stocks and new highs on Wall Street.
Markets took additional encouragement from the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's March meeting, which showed a majority of policy-makers in favour of continuing the central bank's bond purchases to help boost the U.S. economy at least through the middle of the year.
Although some policy-makers want to slow and eventually end the purchases before the end of 2013, some investors took that as a sign of confidence in the U.S. economy.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.9 per cent to 22,231.69. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 per cent to 13,398.41, riding a wave of enthusiasm for the Bank of Japan's aggressive new approach to stimulating the world's third-largest economy out of a prolonged slump. Australia's S&P/ASX advanced 0.5 per cent to 4,993.20.
South Korea's Kospi went into reverse, however, after the Bank of Korea kept its key interest rate at 2.75 per cent for the sixth-straight month. Many analysts had expected the central bank to lower the rate to spark borrowing and help the economy. The Kospi fell 0.1 per cent to 1,933.08.
On Wall Street, a surge in technology stocks on Wednesday drove the Standard & Poor's 500 and Dow Jones industrial average to record highs. The gains came after network communications company Adtran reported earnings that were double what was expected.
The Dow rose 0.9 per cent, its biggest one-day gain in a month, to 14,802.24. The S&P 500 rose 1.2 per cent to 1,567.73. The Nasdaq composite gained 1.8 per cent to 3,297.25.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 28 cents to $94.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to $94.51 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.
In currency markets, the euro was nearly unchanged at $1.3055 from $1.3058 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 99.56 yen from 99.76 yen.