Asian markets mostly up, Tokyo extends gains

Asian markets were mostly higher on Wednesday, with Tokyo supported by the weak yen, while Shanghai and Hong Kong traders digested a rare trade deficit for China in March.

On Wall Street the Dow index provided support as it climbed to yet another record on hopes for the US economy and optimism about the January-March earnings season that started this week.

Tokyo rose 0.73 percent by the break, while Hong Kong was up 0.30 percent and Seoul added 0.64 percent, but Sydney was 0.21 percent lower and Shanghai was flat.

China's customs agency said Wednesday exports climbed a below forecast 10.0 percent last month, and imports jumped a bigger-than-expected 14.1 percent, while the country saw a trade deficit of $880 million. Economists had tipped a surplus of $14.7 billion.

The news come a day after officials said inflation had come in below estimates, which analysts said indicates ongoing weakness in the world's number two economy, which is struggling to recover from slower growth last year.

Dongxing Securities analyst Sun Zheng said the data show "external demand still remains weak, which is widely known to the market".

He told Dow Jones Newswires that "investors will pay more attention to indicators that reflect companies' business operations, profitability and revenue growth".

In Tokyo the Nikkei resumed its upward trend, having piled on around 10 percent since the Bank of Japan's stimulus package last week, which sent the yen tumbling against the dollar to levels not seen since May 2009.

In early Tokyo trade the greenback bought 99.03 yen, while the euro was at 129.56 yen in early trade against 99.18 and 129.73 in New York Tuesday.

National Australia Bank said in a note: "Levels above 100 yen continue to look like only a matter of time away."

The euro bought $1.3083, from $1.3081 in US trade.

There was also some cheer from New York, where the Dow rose 0.41 percent to end at another record high, while the S&P 500 jumped 0.35 percent and the Nasdaq added 0.48 percent.

Investors have an eye on the Korean peninsula, where the North continues its stand-off with the South and the United States.

On Tuesday it told foreigners to leave Seoul and warned of a thermo-nuclear war while moving two mid-range missiles to the east coast for an expected launch.

The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command also raised its "Watchcon" status from 3 to 2 reflecting indications of a "vital threat", Yonhap news agency said, citing a senior military official.

Oil prices fell, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May dropping 27 cents to $93.93 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for May delivery shedding nine cents to $106.14.

Gold was at $1,586.50 an ounce at 0205 GMT compared with $1,571.97 late on Tuesday.