Asia Stocks Up on Japan Stimulus Hopes

TOKYO (AP) -- Asian shares were higher Thursday as Japan's benchmark rose on hopes of Japanese government stimulus spending and better-than-expected earnings lifted Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.8 percent to finish at 16,810.22. South Korea's Kospi slipped nearly 0.2 percent to 2,012.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 1.0 percent to 22,104.86. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.4 percent to 3,039.58.

JAPAN STIMULUS: Japanese media reported the government may be considering a 20 trillion yen ($186 billion) fiscal stimulus package. That sent Japan's benchmark and the U.S. dollar higher against the yen. A cheap yen works as a plus for Japan's giant exporters.

U.S. COMPANIES: Technology stocks finished higher on Wall Street, following an encouraging report from Microsoft that said momentum in its cloud-computing business helped it to return to a profit in its fiscal fourth quarter.

WALL STREET: Both the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Dow Jones industrial average set all-time highs, and the Dow marked its ninth consecutive day of gains --- the longest winning streak since 2013. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.24 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 2,173.02. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36.02, or 0.2 percent, to 18,595.03. The Nasdaq composite rose 53.56, or 1.1 percent, to 5,089.93.

EUROPE POST-BREXIT: Investors are watching for the news conference later in the day by the European Central Bank to see what actions might be ahead to shore up the European economy.

THE QUOTE: "Mario Draghi's speech is hotly anticipated by investors as they look for clues and guidance on what measures the central bank will take post Brexit to navigate through uncertainty," said Alex Wijaya, senior sales trader at CMC Markets.

ENERGY: The price of U.S. crude oil rose 27 cents to $46.02 per barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 26 cents to $47.43 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose slightly to $1.1034 from $1.1015, while the dollar rose to 107.23 yen from 106.01 yen.