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Stock market today: Tokyo's Nikkei leads Asian gains following Wall Street rally

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian shares rose on Wednesday, led by an 2% gain in Japan’s Nikkei 225 after U.S. stocks rallied for a second straight day Tuesday, blunting the blow from what’s been a rough April.

U.S. futures rose while oil prices edged lower.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 2.1% in morning trading to 38,337.23, with the yen hovering at 34-year lows during the week.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to 7,705.70 following the release of a fifth consecutive quarter of decelerating inflation, with the consumer price index in the first quarter easing to 3.6% from previous 4.1%.

In South Korea, the Kospi added 1.9% to 2,672.87, led by a 3.8% gain in heavyweight Samsung Electronics.


The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 1.3% to 17,053.06, while the Hang Seng Tech Index gained 2.7%. The Shanghai Composite index was up 0.2% at 3,026.88.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan’s Taiex gained 2.3%.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 climbed 1.2% to 5,070.55, pulling further out of the hole created by a six-day losing streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7% to 38,503.69, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 1.6% to 15,696.64.

A weaker-than-expected report on U.S. business activity helped support the market, which remains in an awkward phase. The hope on Wall Street is for the economy to avoid a severe recession, but not to stay so hot that it keeps upward pressure on inflation.

The preliminary report from S&P Global released Tuesday seemed to hit that sweet spot. Treasury yields eased in the bond market, and stocks added to gains immediately after its release.

A flood of earnings reports also dictated much of trading, highlighted by a slew of companies that topped analysts’ expectations.

GE Aerospace flew 8.3% higher after it raised its profit forecast for the full year, in addition to beating expectations for first-quarter earnings.

Kimberly-Clark gained 5.5% after the maker of Huggies, Kleenex and Kotex also raised its earnings forecast for the full year. General Motors revved up by 4.4% after citing sales of pickup trucks and other higher-profit vehicles. Danaher rose 7.2% after pointing to strength in its bioprocessing and molecular diagnostics businesses.

They helped overshadow an 8.9% drop for Nucor after the steelmaker fell short of forecasts for both profit and revenue.

With skeptics still calling the broad stock market too expensive, criticism would ease only if companies were to produce higher profits or if interest rates were to fall. The latter has been looking less likely.

Top officials at the Federal Reserve warned last week they may need to keep interest rates high for a while in order to ensure inflation is heading down to their 2% target. That was a big letdown for financial markets, dousing hopes that had built after the Fed signaled earlier that three interest-rate cuts may come this year.

Lower rates had appeared to be on the horizon after inflation cooled sharply last year. But a string of reports this year showing inflation has remained hotter than expected has raised worries about stalled progress.

That’s why Tuesday’s report suggesting a slowdown in growth for overall business activity across the country was so welcomed. It could keep the door open for the Fed to cut interest rates the one or two times that many traders are currently forecasting.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.59% to relieve the pressure on stocks broadly, particularly high-growth ones and those that pay high dividends.

In oil trading, U.S. benchmark crude lost 1 cents to $83.35 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, was 7 cents lower at $87.32 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was unchanged at 154.82 Japanese yen. The euro rose to $1.0706 from $1.0701.

Zimo Zhong, The Associated Press