Asian stock markets up on US corporate cues

Deals by cash-rich corporations and strong earnings out of the U.S. helped propel Asian markets higher Wednesday.
Oil prices hovered below $104 a barrel after a report showed U.S. crude supplies rose more than expected last week, suggesting demand growth may be faltering. In currencies, the dollar was stronger against the yen and the euro.
Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent to 9,868.20 as a weaker yen made products by the country's powerhouse export sector more attractive to overseas customers. Honda Motor Co. Ltd. jumped 2.5 percent, Sharp Corp. rose 1.8 percent and Canon Inc. was 0.3 percent higher.
Toyota Motor Corp. rose 1.1 percent a day after reports said the company, whose operations were disrupted by parts shortages after Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, will likely return to normal two to three months earlier than expected.
South Korea's Kospi index was 0.9 percent higher at 2,157.91, with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., South Korea's No. 2 shipbuilder, jumping 6 percent after winning a deal to build an ultra-deep water drill ship for U.S.-based Vantage Drilling Co. at an estimated cost of $580 million to $590 million.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was 0.3 percent higher to 23,405.21, with energy shares advancing as oil prices stabilized. Oil prices have swung sharply since the beginning of May, dropping 15 percent last week before rebounding about 6 percent so far this week.
PetroChina Co. Ltd., the publicly traded unit of China's biggest oil and gas company, rose 2.8 percent, CNOOC, or China National Offshore Oil Corp., was 3 percent higher. But airline shares slumped, as their profits often get hit hard when crude prices rise. Air China Ltd. dropped 2.6 percent; Qantas Airways Ltd. was 0.9 percent off.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7 percent to 4,760.80. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and New Zealand also higher.
Chinese markets were up after the country's national statistics bureau released figures showing inflation eased slightly in April. The official Xinhua News Agency said consumer prices rose 5.3 percent over a year ago, driven by an 11.5 percent jump in April food costs.
The data suggested that repeated interest rate hikes by China's central bank and other controls have begun to cool an overheated economy. Persistently high inflation has led the People's Bank of China to hike interest rates four times since October to reduce the amount of money sloshing around the economy.
The mainland Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1 percent to 2,894.33 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index was up 0.4 percent at 1,214.56.
"Maybe inflation has peaked, so you can say it's a little bit of good news for the market," said Francis Lun, a Hong Kong-based analyst.
Still, mainland markets remain concerned that Beijing will introduce "more tightening measures to cool the property market and lower inflation," Lun said.
On Wall Street, news that Microsoft Inc. would buy Internet telephone service Skype for $8.5 billion in cash signaled that companies were starting to spend _ buoying confidence that stocks would continue to rise.
The Skype purchase would be Microsoft's largest in its 36-year history. It follows AT&T Inc.'s announcement in March that it would buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion and Johnson & Johnson's $21.3 billion deal announced last month to acquire Synthes, a maker of medical instruments and implants.
Also Tuesday, dairy producer Dean Foods Co. was among companies reporting earnings that beat analysts' expectations. Dean had a stronger start to the year than it expected and raised its forecast for full-year earnings.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.6 percent to close at 12,760.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.8 percent to 1,357.16. The Nasdaq composite index gained 1 percent to 2,871.89.
Benchmark crude for June delivery was up 5 cents to $103.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $103.88 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
The euro was slightly down at $1.4385 from $1.4388 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar strengthened to 80.86 yen from 80.78 yen.