Apr 16, 12:08 AM EDT

Asia shares rise, shrug off slower China growth


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TOKYO (AP) -- Shares rose Wednesday in Asia, led by Japan's Nikkei 225 index, as investors largely shrugged off news that China's economy slowed in the first quarter.

The Nikkei jumped 2.7 percent to 14,380.77 as Softbank Corp. shares soared more than 8 percent after Chinese e-commerce Alibaba Group Holding Co., in which it holds a 37 percent state, reported strong earnings.

Japanese stocks are still in recovery mode after last week's rout in technology shares. Markets were also relieved China's slowdown was more modest than forecast.

The 7.4 percent growth in China's economy in the first quarter was the slowest since the third quarter of 2012 but slightly higher than the average of analyst forecasts. China's economy, the world's second largest, grew 7.7 percent in the final quarter of last year. Beijing is targeting 7.5 percent growth for 2014.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.7 percent to 22,823.63 and South Korea's Kospi index edged up 0.1 percent to 1,994.92.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite added 0.3 percent to 2,107.06. Markets also rose in Southeast Asia, Australia and India.

Concerns over Ukraine, which sent tanks and troops to reclaim government buildings occupied by pro-Russian gunmen in its eastern region, pulled shares lower Tuesday.

A late afternoon rebound spurred by strong corporate earnings lifted Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.6 percent to 16,262.56 and the Standard & Poor's 500 climbed 0.7 percent to 1,842.98. Even the tech-heavy Nasdaq recovered, gaining 0.3 percent to 4,034.16.

But European shares remained gloomy.

Germany's DAX fell 1.8 percent to close at 9,173.71 and France's CAC 40 dropped 0.9 percent at 4,345.35. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.6 percent to 6,541.61.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at 102.20 yen, up from 101.86 yen late Tuesday. The euro was trading at $1.3816, compared with $1.3814.

Benchmark U.S. crude contract for May delivery was up 8 cents at $103.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed Tuesday at $103.75, down 30 cents.

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