Asian Shares Mostly Higher On Global Growth Hopes

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Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Wednesday as the International Monetary Fund raised this year's global economic growth forecast to 6 percent from its earlier estimate of 5.5 percent, citing additional fiscal measures by advanced economies and the rollout of vaccines.

Traders also looked ahead to the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting later in the day, hoping for additional clues on the outlook for interest rates.

Chinese and Hong Kong markets bucked the regional trend to end lower amid worries over policy tightening. China's Shanghai Composite Index ended on a flat note at 3,479.63, reversing early losses.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended down 263.94 points, or 0.9 percent, at 28,674.80 as traders returned to their desks after a long holiday weekend.

Japanese shares ended slightly higher, with paper & pulp, transport and real estate stocks leading the gainers. The Nikkei 225 Index edged up 34.16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 29,730.79, while the broader Topix closed 0.7 percent higher at 1,967.43.

Toshiba Corp.'s shares soared more than 18 percent after the technology conglomerate confirmed it had received a preliminary acquisition proposal from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners. Sharp Corp, Fujitsu and Hitachi rose between 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent.

Shipping firm Nippon Yusen climbed 3.3 percent after raising its full-year profit forecast. Kawasaki Kisen jumped 4 percent and Mitsui OSK Lines advanced 2.6 percent.

Australian markets advanced as the latest reports on the construction sector and service sector activity painted a positive picture of the economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 42.10 points, or 0.6 percent, to 6,928, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 43.50 points, or 0.6 percent, at 7,177.40.

Miners and tech stocks ended mixed, while banks eked out modest gains. Gold miners Evolution and Newcrest rose 1-2 percent after the precious metal hit a two-week high in the previous session.

Northern Star Resources jumped 4.2 percent, Resolute Mining added 5.5 percent and Perseus mining surged 5.3 percent.

Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Origin Energy, Oil Search and Santos rose 1-2 percent. EML Payments soared 5.5 percent on news it would be entering the European open banking market with the acquisition of Sentenial Limited and its wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Seoul stocks gained for the fifth straight session as foreign investors continued to scoop up local stocks on growing hopes for a swift economic recovery.

The benchmark Kospi rose 10.33 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 3,137.41. Markets ended off their day's highs after South Korea reported the most daily coronavirus cases since early January.

Samsung Electronics shares dropped half a percent after the chip and smartphone maker issued earnings guidance for the first three months of 2021.

South Korea posted a current account surplus of $8.03 billion in February, the Bank of Korea said today, coming roughly in line with expectations and up from $7.06 billion in January.

New Zealand shares rose notably, reversing much of Tuesday's decline. The benchmark NZX-50 Index ended up 87.11 points, or 0.7 percent, at 12,487.59.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare jumped 3.5 percent to lead the gainers, while utilities Contact Energy, Mercury NZ and Meridian all ended up around 2 percent.

U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending slightly lower overnight as new trades linked to Archegos added unease to the markets amid a quiet day on the economic front.

The Dow dropped 0.3 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index and the S&P 500 both ended marginally lower.

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