US corporate figures boost Asian markets

HONG KONG, April 21, 2010 (AFP) - Strong corporate results from the United States and a rally on Wall Street stoked optimism in Asia on Wednesday, with stocks posting a second straight day of gains.

Financial companies, which had been sold heavily on Monday after news that investment bank Goldman Sachs had been charged with fraud in the United States, were big winners, while technology chips were also boosted.

Goldman announced on Tuesday that first quarter earnings rose 91 percent year on year to 3.46 billion dollars, while Bank of America said it had returned to profit with better than expected net income of 3.2 billion dollars.

Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein said his firm's result "reflects more signs of growth across the economy".

Also on Tuesday Apple Corp said fiscal second-quarter profit surged 90 percent on strong computer and iPhone sales, showing that consumer demand for gadgets was picking up in the general economic recovery.

The announcements followed strong results from Citigroup and computer giant IBM the previous day and pushed Wall Street 0.23 percent higher, causing a domino effect in Asia.

Tokyo gained 1.54 percent, Hong Kong was 0.32 percent higher and Sydney climbed 0.90 percent while Seoul added 1.3 percent.

"There are lots of concerns (such as Goldman Sachs' impending lawsuit and China monetary tightening) but one by one the market seems to overcome them, " Mattia Ciancaleoni, director of equity sales at Citigroup Global Markets Japan, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"I don't see why people should take profits here".

Shanghai rose 0.46 percent on bargain hunting after recent steep falls caused by China's announcement of various measures to clamp down on property speculation, dealers said.

The euro fell to 1.3413 dollars in Tokyo late morning trade from 1.3436 dollars in New York late Tuesday, and to 124.84 yen from 125.28 yen.

The dollar edged down to 93.06 yen from 93.17 yen as Japanese exporters sold the greenback, repatriating earnings.

Dealers will also be focusing attention on Greece's debt crisis as Athens prepares to begin talks later Wednesday with EU, IMF and European Central Bank officials on the technical aspects of a loan rescue deal.

Oil was higher, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, up 36 cents at 84.21 dollars a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for June rose 47 cents to 85.27 dollars.

However, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday in a biannual report that the economic crisis could be entering a "new phase" with rising public debt threatening to undermine the stability of the global financial system.

"Risks to global financial stability have eased as the economic recovery has gained steam, but concerns about advanced country sovereign risks could undermine stability gains and prolong the collapse of credit," the Global Financial Stability Report said.

"Without more fully restoring the health of financial and household balance sheets, a worsening of public debt sustainability could be transmitted back to banking systems or across borders."

Gold opened at 1,142.00-1,143.00 US dollars an ounce, up from Tuesday's close of 1,141.50-1,142.50 dollars.

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