U.S. Markets

US stocks ended slightly higher on Wednesday after President Barack Obama detailed his plans for cutting the deficit and the Federal Reserve reported encouraging news on the economy.

The S&P 500 Index was up 0.25 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,314.41. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 7.41 points, or 0.06 percent, at 12,270.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.61 percent.

President Barack Obama's spending cuts proposals for the years ahead are much smaller than the Republican proposal a week ago. Obama called for $2 trillion in reduced spending over the next 12 years. House Republicans last week proposed $5.8 billion in cuts to federal spending over the next 10 years.

JP Morgan led the financials lower after its Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon signaled that the bank will not boost dividends in the next couple of quarters.

Among financials, JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) declined 0.84 percent and Citigroup (NYSE:C) fell 1.10 percent, while Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) lost 1.48 percent.

On the economic front, U.S. retail sales rose slightly less than expected in March, but recorded a gain for a ninth consecutive month. Retail and food services sales in the US rose 0.4 percent to $396.3 billion in March compared with the upwardly revised figure of 1.1 percent increase in February. Core retail sales, excluding motor vehicle and parts, rose 0.8 percent compared with a 1.1 percent gain in February.

European Markets

European stock markets ended higher on Wednesday as banks advanced after JP Morgan results and Alcatel-Lucent rallied after a broker upgrade.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained 0.73 percent to 278.25. DAX30 advanced 75.06 points or 1.06 percent to 7,177.97 and CAC 40 gained 29.63 points or 0.75 percent 4,006.23, while FTSE 100 advanced 45.97 points or 0.77 percent to 6,010.44.

Banking shares gained after J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. reported better than expected first quarter earnings. Barclays Plc. gained 1.54 percent and HSBC Holdings Plc advanced 1.02 percent.

Alcatel-Lucent SA shares climbed 7.54 percent to 4.04 euros after the company stock was upgraded to “overweight” rating from “equal weight” rating at Morgan Stanley.

Thomas Cook Group Plc. shares declined 1.47 percent to 167 euros after the company stock was downgraded to “sell” rating from “buy” rating at Goldman Sachs.

Among automakers, Volkswagen AG advanced1.32 percent to 103.51 euros and BMW AG advanced 1.47 percent to 57.62 euros, while Daimler AG rose 0.87 percent.

Asian Markets

Asian stock markets advanced for the first time in three days on Wednesday as gains from technology shares offset declines in resource-relates shares and Japanese car makers climbed after a brokerage upgrade.

Tokyo shares ended higher, led by gains from car makers after Nomura Holdings upgraded the sector. Nomura Holdings Inc. said they were oversold and expects a sharp post-quake recovery in the second half of the business year. Benchmark Nikkei gained 0.90 percent or 85.92 points to 9,641.18.

Among the automakers, Honda Motor gained 3.31 percent to 2,957 yen and Nissan Motor rose 2.87 percent to 716yen, while Toyota Motor gained 1.38 percent to 3,285 yen.

Canon Inc. gained 2.1 percent to 3,635 yen after the company stock was upgraded to a “buy” rating from “hold” rating at Deutsche Bank.

Shares of Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's biggest utility and operator of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant, surged 9.6 percent to 502 yen on news that Japan may cap the firm's liability to as little as $24 billion for damages stemming from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Hong Kong shares advanced as transportation companies’ surged on weaker oil prices. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 158.66 points or 0.66 percent to 24,135.03 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.95 percent or 28.56 points to 3,049.93.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. gained 1.96 percent to HK$19.74 and China Eastern Airlines Corp. advanced 7.39 percent to HK$3.34, while China Southern Airlines surged 8.14 percent to HK$3.85.

South Korean shares advanced, led by gains from auto and technology exporter. Seoul composite advanced 32.52 points or 1.56 percent to 2121.92. Kia Motor gained 4.55 percent and Hyundai Motor surged 6.25 percent, while Samsung Electronics gained 2.15 percent.

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