Asian markets are trading firm for the second successive session with the bulls calling the shots everywhere on strong cues from Wall Street and a sharp rise in Japanese industrial output. On hopes global economy will soon be back on the rails, investors across the globe appear to have shrugged off the possible impact of the swine flu outbreak on global economy.

Energy, financials, materials and utilities stocks are trading firm in the Australian stock market. The benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is trading 72.60 points up at 3,768. The Australian All Ordinaries index is up 68.8 points at 3,731 now. Almost all the sectoral indices are up in positive zone with sharp gains at present.

The New Zealand market's NZX 50 index is up 2.06% or 55.56 points now. In Korea, the KOSPI is up 2.63% or 35.25 points at 1,376.

The Nikkei 225 of the Japanese stock market is trading 332.21 points or 3.91% up over its previous close. Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng is up 456.88 points or 3.05%. Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Shanghai, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan are also trading firm with strong gains.

In the Japanese market, automobile, bank, technology, shipbuilding and healthcare stocks are trading firm. The mood is quite upbeat there as the Japanese industrial output rose for the first time in six months, increasing 1.6% month-over-month, bigger than the 0.5% increase expected by economists.

In South Korea, automobiles, banks, shipbuilders and steel makers are among the prominent gainers.

Asian markets, barring the Japanese market which remained closed on account of Showa Day, had ended on a firm note on Wednesday. Major European markets also experienced substantial strength, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advancing 2.3 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose 2.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

In the U.S., GDP numbers fell short of expectations, but Wall Street investors shrugged off the data and picked up stocks so consistently that the market stayed in positive territory right through Wednesday.

The advance first-quarter GDP report indicated that the U.S. economy fell 6.1% between January and March, sharper than an expected drop of 4.7%. However, on hopes economic conditions will improve following a sharp rise in consumption level, participants remained active buyers during the session. Personal consumption climbed a better-than-expected 2.2% after dropping 4.3% in the fourth quarter, as the consensus called for an increase of 0.9%.

The FOMC kept the federal funds rate unchanged at 0.00% to 0.25%, as expected. Its quantitative easing targets were also unchanged. The FOMC's latest policy statement noted that household spending will continue to be pressured by job losses, decreased housing wealth, and tight credit conditions. The committee expects continued weak economic activity, but feels its policy actions combined with fiscal stimulus should help contribute to a gradual resumption of sustained economic growth.

Hope for an economic recovery in the second half of this year helped prop up oil prices. Oil prices gained 2.2% to close at $51.00 per barrel, despite a massive build of 4.05 million barrels during the week ending April 24.

On the corporate front, Bank of America was on investors' minds during the session as Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Lewis faced severe shareholder anger at the bank's annual meeting.

Ken Lewis was stripped of his title as chairman of Bank of America Corp. on Wednesday, but shareholders allowed him to retain the title of Chief Executive Officer. In a close vote, shareholders moved to split the two leadership positions, approving board member Walter Massey as new BofA Chairman.

The Dow closed up 168.79 points or 2.1 percent at 8,185.73, the Nasdaq closed up 38.13 points or 2.3 percent at 1,711.94 and the S&P 500 closed up 18.48 points or 2.2 percent at 873.64. With the upward moves, the Nasdaq ended the session at its best closing level in nearly six months, while the Dow set a more than two-month closing high and the S&P 500 set a three-month closing high.

In the bond market, treasuries showed a notable decline following the Fed announcement, closing near their lows of the day. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note ended the session up 9.4 basis points at 3.096 percent.

Earnings will determine the U.S. market's direction on Thursday with nearly 150 companies scheduled to announce their latest results. Initial jobless claims data and personal spending data for March are scheduled to be released.

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