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Asian stock markets rise, shrug off slower Chinese economic growth

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TOKYO — Shares rose Wednesday in Asia as positive sentiment from strong corporate earnings outweighed Ukraine's crisis and slower economic growth in China.

The Nikkei jumped 2.5 percent to 14,347.41 as a weaker yen boosted exporter stocks and Softbank Corp. shares soared nearly 9 percent after Chinese e-commerce Alibaba Group Holding Co., in which it holds a 37 percent stake, reported strong earnings.

Japanese stocks are still in recovery mode after last week's global rout in technology shares. Markets were also relieved a slowdown in China's growth, to 7.4 percent in the first quarter, was more modest than forecast.

That was the slowest pace of expansion since the third quarter of 2012, but slightly higher than the average of analyst forecasts. China's economy, the world's second largest, grew 7.7 percent in the final quarter of last year. Beijing is targeting 7.5 percent growth for 2014.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.6 percent to 22,800.11 and South Korea's Kospi index edged up 0.1 percent to 1,993.62.

PHOTO: People stand at a barricade at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Several government buildings have fallen to mobs of Moscow loyalists in recent days as unrest spreads across the east of the country. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
People stand at a barricade at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Several government buildings have fallen to mobs of Moscow loyalists in recent days as unrest spreads across the east of the country. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite added 0.3 percent to 2,107.06. Markets also rose in Southeast Asia, Australia and India.

Concerns over Ukraine, which sent tanks and troops to reclaim government buildings occupied by pro-Russian gunmen in its eastern region, pulled shares lower Tuesday.

But a late afternoon rebound spurred by strong corporate earnings lifted Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.6 percent to 16,262.56 and the Standard & Poor's 500 climbed 0.7 percent to 1,842.98. Even the tech-heavy Nasdaq recovered, gaining 0.3 percent to 4,034.16.

European shares remained gloomy.

Germany's DAX fell 1.8 percent to close at 9,173.71 and France's CAC 40 dropped 0.9 percent at 4,345.35. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.6 percent to 6,541.61.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at 102.19 yen, up from 101.86 yen late Tuesday. The euro was trading at $1.3818, compared with $1.3814.

Benchmark U.S. crude contract for May delivery was up 7 cents at $103.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed Tuesday at $103.75, down 30 cents.

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