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Asia Markets: Asian markets little changed as China’s economy holds steady

Asian stocks were mixed in a narrow range Wednesday as China announced its economy grew at a 6.4% annual pace in the last quarter. Read More...

TOKYO — Asian stocks were mixed in a narrow range Wednesday as China announced its economy grew at a 6.4% annual pace in the last quarter.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index NIK, +0.30%   gained 0.3% and the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.06%   edged 0.1% higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index HSI, -0.20%   was almost unchanged while the S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -0.25%   in Australia lost 0.2%. South Korea’s Kospi SEU, -0.03%   dipped fractionally, and shares rose in Taiwan Y9999, +0.48%   and Singapore STI, +0.39%  .

Among individual stocks, Rakuten 4755, +9.02%   surged as the e-commerce giant let users register accounts for its upcoming cryptocurrency exchange. Toyota 7203, +1.79%   also rose while SoftBank Group 9984, -2.05%   fell. Food processor WH Group 0288, +3.18%   gained in Hong Kong, while CSPC Pharmaceutical 1093, -2.51%   and Sino Biopharmaceutical 2922, -1.51%   slid. LG Electronics 066570, -2.31%   slumped in Korea while Taiwan Semiconductor 2330, +1.75%   rallied in Taiwan. In Australia, paint maker DuluxGroup DLX, +26.99%  skyrocketed after its board said it supports a $2.7 billion takeover bid from Japan’s Nippon Paint 4612, -3.28%  .

China’s 6.4% growth rate for January-March beat analysts’ expectations and was in line with Beijing’s official annual target for a 6-6.5% expansion, and suggests government efforts to halt a slowdown are working.

Meanwhile, Japan released trade data for March showing its exports fell 2.4% from a year earlier, while the trade surplus sank 33%.

On Wall Street, stocks closed slightly higher Tuesday, erasing modest losses from the day before. The gains followed a rally in overseas stock indexes and came as investors sized up the latest batch of company earnings reports.

Financial stocks led the way higher as bond yields rose, which drives interest rates higher, enabling banks to make more money on loans. BlackRock BLK, +3.25%   and Progressive PGR, +6.92%   led the sector after each company reported solid quarterly results.

Qualcomm QCOM, +23.21%   powered technology sector stocks higher, gaining 23.2% in its best day in 20 years, on news the chipmaker and Apple AAPL, +0.01%   had settled their bitter legal dispute centered on some of the technology that enables iPhones to connect to the internet. The deal requires Apple to pay Qualcomm an undisclosed amount. It also includes a six-year licensing agreement that likely involves recurring payments to the mobile chip maker.

Companies that posted encouraging results helped put traders in a buying mood Tuesday.

The S&P 500 SPX, +0.05%   rose 0.1% to 2,907.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.26%   gained 0.3% to 26,452.66. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +0.30%   added 0.3% to 8,000.23. The index had not closed above 8,000 points since October.

But analysts expect first-quarter results for S&P 500 companies overall to be the weakest in nearly three years.

“The markets are prepared for this year-over-year decline that everyone is expecting in earnings,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “Unless we have some significant misses, we should be doing OK.”

The yield on the 10 year Treasury note rose to 2.59% from 2.55% late Monday. The 10 year Treasury yield has been climbing since late last month, when it fell to 2.37% amid a crescendo of worries that global economic growth was slowing.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil CLK9, +0.70%   rose gained 28 cents to $64.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 1% to settle at $64.05 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude LCOM9, +0.36%  , the international standard, added 8 cents to $71.80 per barrel. It picked up 0.8% to close at $71.72 per barrel in London.

The dollar USDJPY, -0.06%   was unchanged at 112.01 Japanese yen.

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