By YOUKYUNG LEE
AP Business Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Asian stock markets rebounded Thursday as a rise in U.S. housing starts and solid corporate earnings cheered sentiment.
Investors saw hints of an economic recovery in the housing report, which provided an antidote to the recent stream of downbeat news about growth in Europe, China and the U.S. The Commerce Department said the number of new homes and apartments that builders started in June hit the highest level since October 2008.
Strong earnings from corporate bellwethers such as IBM and Ebay released after U.S. market closed on Wednesday also encouraged investors to hunt for bargains after recent falls. Tech giant IBM's earnings beat analyst forecasts and Ebay said its quarterly net profit more than doubled, sending its stock up 6 percent in after-hours trading.
Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.9 percent to 8,807.40 and South Korea's Kospi jumped 1.8 percent to 1,826.33.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 1.7 percent 19,561.96 and China's Shanghai Composite Index added 1.1 percent to 2,193.86. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.3 percent to 4,175.50.
Samsung Electronics, the world's largest maker of memory chips, televisions and mobile phones, spiked about 4 percent higher in Seoul, mirroring overnight gains in the U.S. technology sector.
The march higher in Asia came after overnight gains on Wall Street, which had one of the strongest sessions in July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8 percent and the tech-focused Nasdaq rallied 1.1 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 climbed 0.7 percent.
In addition to the positive housing starts news and corporate earnings, U.S. stock markets got a lift from a Federal Reserve survey that showed the U.S. economic activity increased modestly in June and early July.
Benchmark crude for August delivery was up 40 cents at $90.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 65 cents to end Wednesday at $89.87 per barrel in New York.
In currency markets, the dollar was down 0.2 percent at 78.61 yen and the euro rose 0.1 percent to $1.229.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.