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Asian shares higher, Korean Kospi dives after missile launch

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares rallied Thursday after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs, though South Korea's Kospi declined after North Korea launched two short range missiles into the sea. Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 0.3% to 21,770.09 while the Kospi lost 0.8% to 2,065.41. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng gained 0.3% to 28,604.89. The Shanghai Composite index also gained 0.3%, to 2,931.90. Australian's S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.5% to 6,810.30. Shares fell in Taiwan but rose in Southeast Asia.

The missiles fired by North Korea early Thursday were the first weapons launches in more than two months and an apparent tactic to pressure Washington as North Korean and U.S. officials struggle to restart nuclear negotiations.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were fired from near the eastern coastal town of Wonsan and flew about 430 kilometers (270 miles) before landing in the waters off the country's east coast.

Otherwise, there was little in the way of new developments to drive trading, with many investors awaiting policy announcements by the European Central Bank later in the day and from the Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan later in the month.

On Wall Street, stocks steadily gained ground Wednesday and closed broadly higher on Wall Street as investors rewarded solid earnings results from several large companies. Industrial stocks moved broadly higher after UPS beat Wall Street's financial forecasts. The solid results from the delivery service counteracted steep drops from Boeing and Caterpillar, which both reported weak results.

The Russell 2000, which focuses on smaller stocks, outshone every other index, gaining 1.6% to 1,580.42. The S&P 500 index rose 0.5% to 3,019.56, putting it on track for a weekly gain. Boeing and Caterpillar weighed down The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which fell 0.3% to 27,269.97.

The Nasdaq rose 0.8% to 8,321.50. ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil added 18 cents to $56.06 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 89 cents to settle at $55.88 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, picked up 12 cents to $63.30 per barrel. Overnight, it fell 65 cents to close at $63.18 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was flat at 108.16 Japanese yen. The euro weakened to $1.1136 from $1.1142.

AP Business Writer Damien J. Troise contributed.

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