asian stocks

Asian markets gained in the morning trade after closing sharply lower in the previous session, with Japanese stocks advancing further on stimulus optimism.

The Nikkei average stock index gained 0.75 percent or 86.8 points to 11739.1 while South Korea's KOSPI was up 0.5 percent or 10.1 points to 2023.3. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 1.45 percent or 72.8 points to 5083.3.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.29 percent or 6.69 points to 2280.1. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was up 0.14 percent or 31.6 points to 22569.4.

Wall Street had closed higher earlier, unaffected by the Chinese market plunge in the previous session. The Dow Jones Industrial average climbed to its second highest recorded level buoyed by an interest in defensive stocks.

China's departing Premier Wen Jiabao has kicked off the National People's Congress, which will formalise the country's leadership handover. Before the NPC, Wen's work report showed that the government has retained economic growth target of 7.5 percent for 2013 and set an inflation target of 3.5 percent.

"We deem it necessary and appropriate to set this year's target for economic growth at about 7.5%, a goal that we will have to work hard to attain," Wen said.

Meanwhile, HSBC's China services purchasing managers index (PMI) released early in the day showed that activities remained weaker in February. The index fell to 52.1 from 54.0 recorded in January.

In Japan, stimulus speculations and currency movements helped the markets to advance. The gains came in as the government's central bank governor-nominee, Haruhiko Kuroda, indicated his support for aggressive monetary stimulus measures to meet the inflation targets. Kuroda is expected to succeed Masaaki Shirakawa later this month.

Major Movers

Financial and Property stocks advanced in Tokyo. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group rose 0.2 percent while Mizuho Financial Group added 0.97 percent. Japan Real Estate Investment Corp was up 1.3 percent.

Fast Retailing climbed 5.8 percent after the firm reported improved sales at its clothing store chain.

Consumer shares traded higher in Hong Kong. Belle International Holdings gained 3.33 percent while Want Want China Holdings was up 1.99 percent.