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Asia Stocks Up On Strong US Earnings

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after strong U.S. corporate earnings led investors to ignore sagging consumer confidence.

Japan's Nikkei rose 1.1 percent to 10,990.77 as the yen continued to weaken against the U.S. dollar. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to 23,884.24.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 1,959.91 after the government said manufacturing output rose 0.8 percent in December from November.

Gains in resource stocks helped lift Australia's S&P/ASX 200 by 0.2 percent to 4,898.60. Mining giants Rio Tinto Ltd. gained 1.4 percent and BHP Billiton advanced 1.1 percent.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia rose. Mainland Chinese shares fell.

A survey on U.S. consumer confidence Tuesday was unexpectedly weak, but analysts said the result was likely a one-time blip due to the payroll tax increase that was part of the agreement reached by U.S. lawmakers to avert bigger spending cuts and tax increases.

Wall Street stocks rose Tuesday after drugmaker Pfizer posted strong earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5 percent to close at 13,954.42 points, ending higher for the seventh day in eight. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.5 percent to 1,507.84. Refinery operator Valero Energy, which also posted strong fourth-quarter results, was the biggest gainer on the S&P.

The Nasdaq composite index was little changed at 3,153.66

Currently, analysts expect fourth-quarter earnings for 2012 to increase by an average of 4.7 percent for S&P 500 companies, according to the latest data from S&P Capital IQ. That's an improvement on the previous quarter when profit grew by 2.4 percent.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 4 cents to $97.53 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.13, or 1.2 percent, to close at $97.57 on the Nymex on Tuesday.

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