BANGKOK: Asian stock markets jumped Wednesday, powered by better-than-expected earnings from chipmaking giant Intel Corp. and Singapore's forecast that its economy will grow a blistering 15 percent this year.
Oil prices fell below $77 a barrel in Asia after a report showed U.S. crude supplies rose unexpectedly last week, suggesting demand for fuel remains tepid. The yen was weaker against the dollar. The euro fell.
Technology stocks in Asia got a big boost from Intel's after-hours report of quarterly earnings and revenue that beat expectations. Markets also advanced after export-reliant Singapore raised its growth forecast for 2010 after a record expansion in the second quarter — further evidence that the recovery from last year's global recession is on track.
"In the short term, the expectation is that the markets will go further," said Castor Pang, director of research at Cinda International in Hong Kong. Fund managers are also "trying to balance their portfolios" following second-quarter results by looking for new investment opportunities.
Major indexes in Asia were up 1 percent or more, led by Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average. It climbed 246.33 points, or 2.6 percent, to 9,783.13 — shrugging off concerns that the ruling party's loss of its upper house majority will slow economic reforms.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to 20,640.68 and South Korea's Kospi added 1.4 percent to 1,759.34. Higher metals prices and data showing rising consumer confidence pushed Australia's S&P/ASX 200 up 1.5 percent to 4,445.70.
Tech and semiconductor-related issues were big beneficiaries of Intel's result, with Advantest Corp., a Japanese maker of chip-testing equipment, soaring 5.2 percent. Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. rose 3.4 percent.
Mizuho Financial Group Inc. also triggered buying in Tokyo after the Japanese megabank set the price for its new share offering at 130 yen per share — below Tuesday's closing price. The offering, which could raise about $8.4 billion yen, is among the largest this year in Japan. Mizuho rose nearly 4.4 percent.
More good economic news came out of Singapore, which raised its forecast for economic growth this year to a range of 13 percent to 15 percent from the previous forecast of 7 percent to 9 percent. It also raised its forecast for export growth as global demand has stayed strong amid Europe's debt and fiscal crisis.
"This should reinforce the view that fears from the eurozone crisis may be exaggerated," DBS bank said in a report.
Singapore, which has the highest percentage of millionaires in the world, is often seen as a barometer of world demand because its economy — built on manufacturing and services like finance — is one of the most export-reliant in Asia.
Singapore's benchmark rose 0.6 percent to 2,945.08 and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 1 percent to 2,476.10. Markets in Taiwan, Indonesia, New Zealand and Malaysia also rose.
In New York on Tuesday, there were additional signs on Wall Street that the U.S. economy is improving, with better-than-expected profits from aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. and railroad operator CSX Corp. The companies also issued upbeat forecasts for the rest of the year. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 1.4 percent to 10,363.02 on investors' hopes for a strong earnings season.
In currencies, the dollar rose to 88.96 yen from 88.70 yen late Tuesday, while the euro lost ground, to $1.2715 from $1.2722.
Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 26 cents to $76.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2.20 to settle at $77.15 on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Tomoko A. Hosaka in Tokyo and Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.