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Global stock markets bolstered by solid US corporate earnings, home sales

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SEOUL, South Korea — Global stocks mostly rose Wednesday, bolstered by solid U.S. earnings and home sales as tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine eased.

Europe markets opened with moderate gains. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent to 6,806.46 and Germany's DAX added 0.4 percent to 9,771.38. France's CAC 40 also advanced 0.4 percent to 4,386.53.

Futures augured a tentative advance on Wall Street. S&P 500 and Dow Jones futures each inched up 0.1 percent.

Markets have been roiled the past week by heightened tensions between Russia and the West after a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists, killing all 298 people on board. The tensions eased Tuesday after the separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the aircraft's black boxes.

The focus of investors was returning to earnings, with hundreds of U.S. companies set to report quarterly results this week. Many of the U.S. earnings reports have been positive so far, easing jitters that stock prices have climbed too high in the past several months.

After U.S. markets closed on Tuesday, two tech giants boosted investor sentiment with their better-than-expected earnings reports.

Apple Inc. reported a 12 percent increase in its quarterly profit, exceeding analysts' estimate. The company said its iPhone shipments rose 13 percent over a year earlier, showing consumers still snapped up its devices even as the next version will likely to come out this fall.

PHOTO: A man speaks on a mobile phone in front of an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Asian shares rose Tuesday as tensions over the downing of a passenger jet in Ukraine eased after pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the aircraft's black boxes. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index added 0.8 percent to 15,343.28 as trading resumed after Monday's public holiday. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
A man speaks on a mobile phone in front of an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Asian shares rose Tuesday as tensions over the downing of a passenger jet in Ukraine eased after pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the aircraft's black boxes. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index added 0.8 percent to 15,343.28 as trading resumed after Monday's public holiday. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Media reports have said Apple's Taiwanese contractors are ramping up production of its next iPhone models which are expected to feature a bigger screen than their predecessors.

Microsoft's CEO painted a rosy vision for the company's future after saying its profit excluding items related to the absorption of Nokia was higher than forecasts.

U.S. home resale numbers also bolstered sentiment. Sales of previously owned homes rose 2.6 percent in June, a third straight monthly gain and the highest level in eight months. The report from the National Association of Realtors provided the evidence that housing is regaining lost momentum.

"A combination of U.S. earnings optimism, positive U.S. economic data and a slight downgrade to Russia risk has ignited markets today," Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG, said in a commentary.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished 0.8 percent higher at 23,971.87 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 percent to 5,576.70 helped by the brisk output report by mining giant BHP Billiton. Stocks in mainland China and Southeast Asia also closed higher. But Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.1 percent to 15,328.56 and South Korea's Kospi was steady at 2,028.32.

Indonesian stocks surged about 1 percent in early trading after the official vote count showed Joko Widodo the clear winner of a bitterly contested presidential election. Late in the day, the index was up 0.2 percent after Widodo's rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, said he would challenge the result in court, alleging massive fraud. Election observers found the vote to be generally fair and free.

In energy markets, U.S. benchmark crude for September delivery was down 23 cents to $102.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped 47 cents to $102.39 on Tuesday.

The euro edged up to $1.3467 from $1.3466. The dollar fell to 101.33 yen from 101.47 yen.

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PHOTO: A man watches an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Asian shares rose Tuesday as tensions over the downing of a passenger jet in Ukraine eased after pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the aircraft's black boxes. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index added 0.8 percent to 15,343.28 as trading resumed after Monday's public holiday. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
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