Asian markets soar after Wall Street's big rally

TOKYO - Asian markets jumped Wednesday after encouraging signs of strength in the U.S. economy sent shares higher on Wall Street, and a weaker yen boosted Japan's benchmark. Europe started out on Asia's heels, but then cooled somewhat as the day progressed.

With a weak yen adding to investor optimism, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 4.1 percent higher to close at 16,747. South Korea's Kospi rose 1.6 percent to 1,947. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 3.1 percent to 20,003, while the Shanghai Composite Index added 4.3 percent to 2,850. Other regional markets were also higher, including Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia.

In Europe, as of 7:35 a.m. Eastern, France's CAC 40 added less than 0.1 percent in early trading to 4,408. Germany's DAX rose nearly 0.1 percent to 9,729. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.36 percent to 6,133.

U.S. shares were set to drift lower at the open, with Dow and S&P futures edging down 0.2 percent.

Stocks on Wall Street roared to their best day on Tuesday in more than a month overnight on positive data, including construction spending reaching its highest level in eight years in January. Separately, a survey showed some signs of life in the beaten-down U.S. manufacturing sector.

"We have seen an immense risk-on rally over the past 24 hours of trade, and a lot of this does look to be underpinned by the stability that oil has found above the US$30 level over the past two weeks," Angus Nicholson of IG said in a commentary.

U.S. crude fell 56 cents to $33.83 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil, dipped 6 cents to $36.75 a barrel in London.

The euro fell to $1.0865 from $1.0883 late Tuesday and the dollar rose to 114.37 yen from 112.38 yen.