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Asia stocks jump on earnings, Spain debt auction

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets rebounded Wednesday after a slew of solid earnings boosted Wall Street and a successful Spanish bond auction eased worries over Europe's debt crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 2 percent to 9,655.83 as its formidable export sector benefited from a weakening yen.

South Korea's Kospi added 1.1 percent to 2,007.54 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.3 percent to 4,342.70. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.2 percent to 20,813.26. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, mainland China, Indonesia and Thailand also rose.

In the U.S., first-quarter results gave markets a lift. Coca-Cola's profit was better than Wall Street analysts had forecast. Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson also posted strong results.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.5 percent to 13,115.54, its best day in a month. The S&P 500 closed up 1.6 percent to 1,390.78. The Nasdaq composite index soared 1.8 percent to 3,042.82, its biggest point rise in three weeks.

On Tuesday, European stocks had their best day in four months after Spain attracted strong investor interest at an auction of two-year debt.

The government sold more than €3.2 billion ($4.2 billion) in short-term debt, more than had been expected, and the yield on Spain's 10-year government bond fell, a sign of improving confidence in the country's finances.

"The Dow Jones gained almost 200 points, so that helped investors to regain their confidence, and also Spain's auctions were better than expected," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.

Positive news also came from the International Monetary Fund, which raised its outlook for the global economy because of faster U.S. growth and a coordinated effort in Europe to address its debt crisis.

The global lending organization said Tuesday the U.S. economy should expand 2.1 percent this year. Europe will likely shrink 0.3 percent and the world economy should grow 3.5 percent. All three estimates are slightly better than the IMF's January forecasts.

Rising commodities prices helped Australian resource stocks. OZ Minerals rose 2.9 percent. BHP Billiton added 2.3 percent after announcing its iron ore and petroleum production rose in the first three months of calendar 2012.

"Commodities were generally stronger as the U.S. dollar retreated and growth concerns eased. As a result, resource stocks will be in focus today, with a strong recovery on the cards," said Stan Shamu, analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne.

Japanese automakers, benefiting from a lower yen, soared. Isuzu Motors Corp. jumped 5 percent, Honda Motor Co. was up 3.8 percent and Nissan Motor Co. climbed 3.9 percent.

Hong Kong-listed CNOOC, China's largest offshore oil producer, jumped 4.2 percent a day after announcing that an oil field it discovered in the Bohai Sea two years ago has proven to be the largest found in recent years in the region, Xinhua news agency said.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 18 cents to $104.38 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.27 to settle at $104.20 in New York on Tuesday.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3116 from $1.3139 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.37 yen from 80.80 yen.

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