Stocks gain in Asia after China reports surge in exports

BANGKOK (AP) — Share prices rose in Asia on Thursday after China reported its exports surged nearly 45 percent in February from a year earlier.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 percent higher to 21,333.11 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.5 percent to 30,638.52. Australia's S&P ASX 200 surged 0.7 percent to 5,942.90 and the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4 percent to 2,411.57. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.3 percent to 3,281.00 and shares were also higher in Southeast Asia.

WALL STREET: Stocks fell in the morning as investors reacted to the departure of Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who was seen as a proponent of free trade. The losses deepened after Trump suggested on Twitter that the U.S. may impose penalties on China as part of intellectual property disputes. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, was known to disagree with the tariff plan, which has also drawn criticism from Republicans in Congress as well as from much of corporate America. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell as much as 1 percent during the day but finished with a loss of just 1.32 points, less than 0.1 percent, at 2,726.80. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 0.3 percent to 24,801.36 and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.3 percent, to 7,396.65.

CHINA TRADE: China's exports surged in February, partly due to distortions related to the timing of lunar new year holidays, while its politically sensitive trade surplus widened amid mounting tension with Washington. Exports rose 44.5 percent to $171.6 billion, accelerating from January's 11.1 percent growth, customs data showed Thursday. Imports rose 6.3 percent to $137.8 billion, down sharply from the previous month's 36.9 percent rate. The news is a boost for regional exporters given China's outsized role in global trade.

ANALYST'S VIEWPOINT: "Both foreign and domestic demand look healthy, though imports are not as robust as during the same period last year," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. "The bigger picture is that while China's trade surplus with most of the world has declined during the past year thanks to the stronger Chinese demand for commodities, its surplus with the U.S. has continued to expand."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 13 cents to $61.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped $1.45, or 2.3 percent, to $61.15 a barrel on Wednesday after the Energy Department reported that U.S. oil production rose last week. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 11 cents to $64.45 per barrel. It fell $1.45, or 2.2 percent, to $64.34 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 106.03 yen from 106.08 yen late Wednesday. The euro edged down to $1.2408 from $1.2411.


AP Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed. He can be reached at . His work can be found at .