TOKYO (AP) -- Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Thursday after crude oil prices rebounded from an overnight sell-off and Japan reported stronger-than-expected exports in March. Easing tensions over North Korea helped brighten the mood after weeks of jitters over the U.S. response to Pyongyang's missile tests and nuclear weapons program.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2 percent to 18,474.64 and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.4 percent to 2,147.16. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.3 percent to 23,905.35 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,812.30. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.2 percent to 3,164.78 and Southeast Asian benchmarks were mixed.
OIL PRICES: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 32 cents to $51.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.97, or 3.8 percent overnight, to $50.44 a barrel after the Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude inventories fell less than expected last week. The EIA said stockpiles are larger than normal for this time of year. Brent crude, used to price international oils, jumped 39 cents to $53.32 a barrel. It fell $1.96, or 3.6 percent, to $52.93 per barrel in London.
JAPAN TRADE: Japan's exports rose at a faster-than-expected 12 percent pace in March, while imports jumped nearly 16 percent from a year earlier. A revival of demand in China helped push exports up 16.4 percent from the year before to 1.3 trillion yen ($11 billion), while exports to the U.S. climbed 3.5 percent to 1.35 trillion yen ($12 billion).
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "The upshot is that net trade should have provided another boost to Q1 GDP growth," Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said in a commentary.
WALL STREET: U.S. stocks gave up a promising start and finished mostly lower Wednesday as investors fretted over lagging wages and energy companies dropped with the price of oil. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 0.2 percent to 2,338.17 and the Dow Jones industrial average gave up 0.6 percent, to 20,404.49. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2 percent to 5,863.03. All 34 energy companies on the S&P 500 fell.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 108.95 yen from 108.86 yen. The euro rose to $1.0716 from $1.0712.