Asian markets rise after Dow hits record high

Asian markets rallied Wednesday following a record-breaking performance by shares on Wall Street, with Tokyo and Sydney both hitting multi-year highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 0.89 percent higher at 14,253.77, beating by nearly 90 points its former record seen on October 9, 2007, just before the onset of the global financial crisis.

Tokyo added 1.32 percent by the break and Sydney was 0.96 percent higher, both around highs not seen since September 2008. Hong Kong rose 0.84 percent, Seoul was up 0.31 percent and Shanghai climbed 0.31 percent.

The stand-out player was Japanese electronics giant Sharp, which surged more than 17 percent on reports that it was ready for a tie-up with South Korea's Samsung worth more than $100 million.

The surge on the Dow, which has seen the index more than double since its trough in March 2009, comes despite uncertainty in the US economy and as Washington battles over how to trim its huge deficit. Shares were also helped by a pick-up in the country's services sector.

"Monetary easing measures by Japan, the US and Europe are providing excess liquidity in the market. The Dow's gains are just part of it," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.

Also on Wall Street, the S&P 500 climbed 0.96 percent to close at 1,539.79, just two percent short of its own record, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq added 1.32 percent.

In Tokyo trade Sharp soared 17.06 percent after the Nikkei business daily and other media reported that Samsung was set to make a capital injection worth $108 million. On South Korea's Kospi, Samsung was up 0.6 percent.

The deal, in which Sharp would sell new shares, would provide much-needed support for the troubled Japanese firm while giving Samsung greater access to smartphone and tablet computer screens.

An official announcement is expected on Wednesday, the Nikkei said.

On currency markets the dollar bought 93.10 yen in early trade, from 93.31 yen in New York Tuesday. The euro fetched 121.59 yen and $1.3057, compared with 121.74 yen and $1.3044.

Sydney stocks were given a lift after data showed the economy grew 0.6 percent in the three months to December from the previous quarter and 3.1 percent year-on-year, as the resources sector and consumer spending rallied.

The Australian dollar rose slightly to US$1.0275 from US$1.0266 prior to the release of the figures.

Oil prices edged up after the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which has stoked uncertainty about the direction of the major Latin American oil-producing nation.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, added 19 cents to $91.01 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery increased 53 cents to $112.14.

Gold was at $1,578.33 at 0230 GMT compared with $1,583.02 late Tuesday.