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

Tokyo added 2.13 percent, or 248.82 points, to end at 11,932.27 while Sydney was 0.82 percent higher, adding 41.4 points to 5,116.8 -- both indexes sitting around highs not seen since September 2008.

Seoul was up 0.20 percent, or 4.13 points, at 2,020.74, while in the afternoon Hong Kong rose 0.89 percent and Shanghai added 0.62 percent.

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.

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 at one point after the Nikkei business daily and other media reported that Samsung was set to make a capital injection. The firm ended 14.05 percent higher.

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

Sharp confirmed the $111 million capital injection deal with Samsung shortly after the Tokyo index closed.

On currency markets the dollar bought 93.21 yen in the afternoon, from 93.31 yen in New York Tuesday. The euro fetched 121.66 yen and $1.3056, 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$1.0283 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 26 cents to $91.08 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April delivery rose 32 cents to $111.93 in mid-afternoon trade.

Gold was at $1,558.70 at 0640 GMT compared with $1,583.02 late Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.22 percent, or 17.59 points, to 7,950.30.

Hon Hai Precision was 0.63 percent higher at Tw$80.5 while HTC fell 6.41 percent to Tw$255.5.

-- Wellington rose 0.67 percent, or 28.81 points, to 4,297.97.

Sky Television gained 3.47 percent to NZ$5.07, Fletcher Building added 0.11 percent to NZ$9.18 and Telecom was up 0.22 percent to NZ$2.31.