U.S. Markets

U.S. stock markets ended higher on Wednesday, led by gains from technology and banking sector stocks.

The S&P 500 Index was up 2.11 points, or 0.16 percent, at 1,334.74. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 29.59 points, or 0.24 percent, at 12,423.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.31 percent.

Cisco Systems Inc (Nasdaq: CSCO) led gains in technology stocks after CEO John Chambers said in a memo to employees that the company has lost its way and will need to restore its credibility. Chambers suggested Cisco might change operations to narrow the company's focus.

Cisco Systems Inc (Nasdaq: CSCO) advanced 4.94 percent and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ) gained 2.21 percent, while Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) gained more than 1.2 percent.

Broadcom Corp. (NASDAQ:BRCM) advanced 3.9 percent to $39.95 as Oppenheimer has upgraded shares of BRCM to outperform from perform citing strong growth profile, management's stated efforts to pursue profitable growth, a more disciplined operating expense and compensation strategy.

Among banking stocks, JPMorgan Chase rose 2.28 percent and American Express gained 2.3 percent, while Bank of America advanced 1.86 percent.

Meanwhie, Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON) led declines in commodity producers after the company reported second quarter sales of $4.13 billion against analysts’ estimation of $4.15 billion. The company shares declined 5.67 percent to $69.16.

European Markets

European stock markets ended higher on Wednesday as euro rallied on rate hike expectations and better-than-expected German factory orders data.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.23 percent to 281.57. DAX30 gained 39.80 points or 0.55 percent to 7,215.11 and FTSE 100 advanced 34.07 points or 0.57 percent to 6,041.13, while CAC 40 gained 6.42 points or 0.16 percent 4,048.16.

German factory orders surged in February, mainly boosted by strong domestic demand. New factory orders in the eurozone’s largest economy rose 2.4 percent in February from an upwardly revised figure of 3.1 percent increase in the previous month.

Commerzbank AG gained 3.19 percent to 5.78 euros after the bank said it will repay around 14.3 billion euros of government aid by June.

Among other banking stocks, Lloyds Banking Group Plc. advanced 3.92 and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc gained 2.66 percent, while Barclays Plc advanced 2.8 percent.

Investec Plc. gained 2.15 percent after the company stock was upgraded to “neutral” rating from “sell” rating.

Asian Markets

Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday after China raised interest rates for the fourth time since October.

Tokyo shares ended lower despite weaker yen as renewed concerns about nuclear crisis in Japan weighed. Benchmark Nikkei declined 0.32 percent or 31.18 points to 9,584.37.

The yen declined against major counterparts on expectations that the Bank of Japan will maintain easy monetary policy after Fed's possible tightening. The Japanese central bank began a two-day meeting to assess its next step to support the earthquake-hit economy.

Among the exporters, Sony Corp. declined 1.18 percent to 2,591yen and NEC Corp. declined 1.14 percent to 172 yen, while Canon Inc. advanced 0.55 percent to 3,620 yen.

Among the automakers, Honda Motor declined 1.32 percent to 2,895 yen and Nissan Motor declined 0.42 percent to 712 yen, while Toyota Motor advanced 0.15 percent to 3,265 yen.

Chinese shares advanced, led by gains from financial stocks after China’s central bank surprised the markets by raising interest rates for the fourth time since October last year to curb inflation. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 134.47 points or 0.56 percent to 24,285.05 and Chinese Shanghai composite advanced 1.14 percent or 33.82 points to 3,001.23.

Ping An Insurance Group Co. gained 2.01 percent to HK$86.25 and Bank of China Ltd. advanced 1.13 percent to HK$4.47 in Hong Kong, while Bank of Communications surged 4.3 percent in Shanghai.

South Korean shares ended lower on Wednesday after posting a fresh record high in the previous session. Seoul composite declined 3.72 points or 0.17 percent to 2,126.71.

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