RICHER AND RICHER: Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has kept his spot as the world's richest man, a rank he has held for 16 years in Forbes magazine's annual listing. The Microsoft co-founder's fortune increased $3.2bn since last year to $79.2bn. (AFP File)
In other news
German retail sales have posted their biggest gain in two years in January as higher wages, economic optimism and low oil prices boosted domestic demand.
The most important US agricultural delegation to visit Cuba has begun, hoping to urge the US Congress to lift the trade embargo against the Caribbean nation.
The dollar has slipped following mixed US data, but it was sitting near a two-year high against China's yuan after Beijing cut interest rates.
Shares in Sharp have tumbled nearly 10% on news that the struggling electronics maker plans to request aid from two main lenders.
Asian equities have stuttered in early trade after healthy gains in the previous session attracted profit-takers, offsetting a strong lead from Wall Street.
The Nasdaq has finished above 5 000 for the first time in 15 years, capping a long-running recovery in the exchange after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.
Oil prices have lifted in Asia, but gains were capped as dealers sat on the sidelines eyeing negotiations aimed at ending a strike at some US crude refineries.
Europe's main stock finished the day down despite the London and Frankfurt markets hitting record highs during the trading sessions.