Japan exports, imports surge in sign of renewed vigor

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A revival of demand in China helped push exports up 16.4 percent from the year before to 1.3 trillion yen ($11 billion), while exports to the US climbed 3.5 percent to 1.35 trillion yen ($12 billion). Overall, analysts still expect good first-quarter results from publicly-traded companies, and that was mostly the case Wednesday morning.

Energy majors Inpex and Japan Petroleum slid 1-2 percent as oil prices dipped toward $50 a barrel.

A modest acceleration in global growth since a year ago has breathed life into Japan's exports and manufacturing, giving Tokyo officials more confidence in the health of the economy.

Bargain hunters chased telecom stocks, with Telstra and TPG Telecom climbing almost 3 percent each. Elsewhere, Charles Schwab rose 71 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $38.62 and Prudential climbed $1.42, or 1.4 percent, to $104.99. Gold miners Newcrest, Northern Star and Regis Resources lost over 1 percent each after gold prices fell as much as 1 percent the previous day.

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ON THE LAM: Chip equipment maker Lam Research posted a bigger third-quarter profit than investors expected and slightly better sales.

That compared with a 6.7% rise expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

OTHER LEADERS: GE helped lead industrial companies higher as it gained 8 cents to $29.92. Its stock gave up 83 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $46.51.

Vehicle exports rose 4 percent, while exports of electrical machinery were up 11 percent.

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OIL PRICES: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 32 cents to $51.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, fell 28 cents to $54.61 per barrel in London.

The yen's weakening following President Donald Trump's election win in November has also boosted Japan's corporate earnings, although the currency has regained some strength in recent weeks.

OVERSEAS: British stocks continued to fall. In Japan the Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1 percent and the South Korean Kospi shed 0.5 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 207 points or 0.87 percent at 24,044 in late trade, snapping a three-day losing streak. Malaysia's KLSE Composite was moving up 0.2 percent, India's Sensex was rising 0.1 percent and Singapore's Straits Times index was gaining half a percent, while the Taiwan Weighted closed marginally lower.

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