Asia markets little changed as China exports surge

HONG KONG: Asian stock markets were little changed Wednesday even as surging Chinese exports pointed to a pickup in global trade.

The region's major indexes were largely mixed as many markets fluctuated for the second day in a row. Oil prices hovered below $82 a barrel, while the dollar traded sideways against the yen and the euro.

News that Chinese exports soared nearly 46 percent in February from a year earlier highlighted recovering demand as the world economy shakes off last year's recession.

At the same time, the report was stronger than expected and reinforced worries the government would intensify measures to prevent overheating in the world's fastest-growing major economy. China's moves to put the brakes on its economy, including restrictions aimed at excessive bank lending, have rattled markets worldwide in recent months.

"It should give the government more confidence to step up their tightening measures," Andy Xie, an independent economist based in Shanghai, said of Wednesday's report released by the government.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average was unchanged at 10,568.03.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng was trading sideways at 21,215.50 while Shanghai's market was down 0.5 percent at 3,052.54.

Elsewhere, South Korea's benchmark was flat, India's index rose 0.6 percent and Australia's market traded sideways.

Oil prices rose slightly in Asia, with benchmark crude for April delivery up 7 cents at $81.56 a barrel. The contract lost 38 cents overnight.

In currencies, the dollar was slightly higher at 90.01 yen from 89.94 yen. The euro was unchanged at $1.3598.

Wall Street futures suggested a flat open in the U.S. Wednesday.

U.S. markets were sluggish overnight.

The Dow on Tuesday rose 11.86, or 0.1 percent, to 10,564.38. The Dow remains 25 percent below its peak of 14,164.53, reached in October 2007.

The S&P 500 index, the barometer favored by professional investors, rose 1.95, or 0.2 percent, to 1,140.45. The Nasdaq composite index rose 8.47, or 0.4 percent, to 2,340.6