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Market Update

Asian Stocks End Mostly Up

Most Asian markets gained ground Wednesday tracking a positive close on Wall Street overnight after tensions between Ukraine and Russia appeared to ease.

At close, the Nikkei was up 1.5%,the Sensex was up 0.3% while the All Ordinaries gained 0.8%.

On the downside, the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.9% and the Hang Seng gave up earlier gains too, ending down 0.3% after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expectedly keeping the government's growth and inflation targets unchanged from last year during the annual meeting of the legislature, the National People's Congress.

Elsewhere in the region, sentiment was upbeat as concerns about Ukraine abated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow reserved the right to use force in Crimea in case of "lawlessness" but he also said that such a step would be the last resort, relieving investors globally. Gold prices declined as investors returned from their safe-haven gold positions.

Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed at a record high.

Back in the region, data showed Australia's economy grew at a stronger-than-expected rate as gross domestic product rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.8% in the December quarter from 0.6% in the preceding quarter.

Stocks on the Move

Exporters were up in Japan with Fujitsu up about 4% and NEC Corp. 4.2% higher.

Fast Retailing picked up 3% in Tokyo even as it made its trading debut in Hong Kong, surging 4% at the open. It shot up 31% at one point before falling back. Its Hong Kong listing is part of a plan to become the world’s top apparel retailer by 2020, and may include offerings at other exchanges, the company’s CFO Takeshi Okazaki said last month.

Sony was up 2.1%. The company said sales for its new PlayStation 4 have crossed 6 million units.

On the losing side, Fuji Heavy Industries gave up 1.8% after the company lowered its fiscal-year profit forecast.

Toyota reversed 0.8% after a Nikkei newspaper report said the company is set to agree to union demands for a bonus of more than six times monthly wages.

In Hong Kong, Tencent Holdings was up 1.6%, extending recent gains.

ICICI Bank was the top gainer in Mumbai, up 2.7%. Coal India, Cipla, SBI, Maruti Suzuki and ONGC were all up over 1.5% each.

Gold stocks were among the sole losers in Australia after an almost 1% drop in Comex gold futures as political tensions eased over the Crimean region and investors returned to equities.

All other sectors were higher, boosted by the upbeat economic growth data. In financials, WBC was up 1.7% while CBA, ANZ, and NAB were all up almost a percent each.

Copper prices touched a 1-week high while spot iron ore prices hit an eight-month low. Index leader BHP Billiton added 1.2% while Rio Tinto edged up 0.3%. Fortescue Metals reversed gains of over 1% and was down about half a percent.