SEOUL, South Korea (AP) â€” Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday after China’s trade improved and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen vowed low interest rates would continue until the U.S. job market is healthy.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 stock index, the region’s heavyweight, advanced 0.9 percent to 14,163.78 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent to 1,950.60.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 21,818.38 and China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.2 percent to 2,013.98.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8 percent to 5,476.80 after employers added more jobs than expected last month.
Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines also rose. But shares in Thailand were down one day after its constitutional court ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from her job.
Yellen told lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. job market is “far from satisfactory.” She said the Fed will begin increasing interest rates only when there is enough progress in restoring full employment and when inflation is back up to its target of 2 percent.
Yellen’s comments appeared to ease concerns that the Fed might move too quickly to raise interest rates.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s softening tone in the confrontation with the West over Ukraine also lifted investor sentiment. Putin said Russia pulled its troops away from the border with Ukraine, although NATO and Washington said they hadn’t seen indication of a pullback. Putin also endorsed plans for fresh elections in Ukraine following the ouster earlier this year of its pro-Russian leader.
Adding to the upbeat factors was China’s April trade data that showed an improvement in exports. Exports rose 0.9 percent from the previous year, compared with a 6.6 percent decline in March. Imports also grew after a contraction in March but at a subdued level.
“While the data didn’t shoot the lights out, it showed signs of a recovery and that’s been enough to encourage some buying today,” Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG, said in a commentary.
On Wednesday, U.S. stock markets finished higher, despite big losses in tech stocks, such as Twitter Inc. The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 0.6 percent to close at 1,878.21. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 0.7 percent to 16,518.54.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq was the only major index to fall. It fell 0.3 percent to 4,067.67.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 12 cents to $100.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.27 to close at $100.77 on Wednesday.
In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3921 from $1.3912 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 101.78 yen from 101.88 yen.