By PAMELA SAMPSON
BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ A positive start to U.S. corporate earnings season helped boost Asian stock markets Thursday.
Major regional benchmarks rose on the heels of a handful of better-than-expected results that also lifted Wall Street.
Consumer products maker Helen of Troy, whose brands include Dr. Scholl's and Vidal Sassoon, reported a 15 percent profit increase. Electronic payments processor Global Payments said its fiscal second-quarter earnings rose nearly 15 percent, beating Wall Street expectations.After markets closed Tuesday, Alcoa Inc. predicted rising demand for its aluminum this year and topped revenue expectations for the fourth quarter. Earlier in the day, agricultural products giant Monsanto said its profit tripled and raised its guidance for 2013. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent to 10,677.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1 percent to 23,439.46. South Korea's Kospi added 0.7 percent to 2,005.39 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.4 percent to 4,725.80. The European Central Bank will meet later Thursday to set monetary policy for the 17 countries that use the euro. It is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at the record low of 0.75 percent even though the eurozone economy as a whole is back in recession. Investors are also awaiting the release in the U.S. of weekly jobless claims. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to close at 13,390.51 on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.3 percent to 1,461.02. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.5 percent to 3,105.81. Benchmark crude oil contract for February delivery was up 33 cents to $93.44 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 5 cents to close at $93.10 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday. In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3047 from $1.3053 while the dollar rose to 88.05 yen from 87.75 yen. ___ Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson