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Japanese Market Advances

The Japanese stock market is advancing on Wednesday following the modest gains overnight on Wall Street and on upbeat Japanese trade data for March. Nevertheless, investors are cautious as they await a raft of economic data from China due later in the day.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 107.70 points or 0.48 percent to 22,329.36, after touching a high of 22,334.07 earlier. Japanese shares hit a fresh four-month high on Tuesday.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Canon is rising more than 1 percent, Sony is adding 0.6 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is higher by 0.4 percent and Panasonic is up 0.2 percent.

In the tech sector, Advantest is rising more than 3 percent and Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent. Among the major automakers, Honda is up 1 percent and Toyota is higher by more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are rising almost 2 percent each. In the oil sector, Inpex is up more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum is adding 0.5 percent after crude oil prices rose overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Rakuten is gaining 8 percent, Screen Holdings is rising more than 5 percent and Omron Corp. is higher by almost 5 percent.

On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing almost 7 percent and Olympus Corp is declining almost 3 percent.

Shares of Nippon Paint Holdings are losing more than 3 percent after the Japanese paint company made a A$3.8 billion acquisition proposal for Australian paint and homeware company DuluxGroup.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 528.5 billion yen in March. That exceeded expectations for a surplus of 363.2 billion yen and was up from 334.9 billion yen in February.

Exports were down 2.4 percent on year, beating expectations for a decline of 2.6 percent following the 1.2 percent drop in the previous month. Imports were up 1.1 percent on year versus expectations for a gain of 2.8 percent following the 6.6 percent contraction a month earlier.

Japan will also provide March data for store sales as well as final February figures for industrial production today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the 112 yen-range on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly higher on Tuesday after early buying interest was generated in reaction to earnings news from Dow components Johnson & Johnson and UnitedHealth. This was partly offset by a report from the Federal Reserve showing industrial production unexpectedly edged lower in the month of March.

The S&P 500 briefly dipped into negative territory in late-day trading but ended the session up 1.48 points or 0.1 percent to 2,907.06. The Dow climbed 67.89 points or 0.3 percent to 26,452.66 and the Nasdaq rose 24.21 points or 0.3 percent to 8,000.23.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index climbed by 0.7 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both rose by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Tuesday amid prospects of tight supply conditions in the market. WTI crude for May ended up $0.65 or about 1 percent at $64.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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