Asian stocks rally as crude oil prices stabilize

HONG KONG - Asian stocks rallied Wednesday in light trading following gains on Wall Street and stabilization of crude oil.

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KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index climbed 1.2 per cent to 22,086.08 while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6 per cent to 2,005.32. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China added 0.3 per cent to 3,662.69 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 per cent to 5,163.70. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

ENERGY: Oil prices are staging a modest recovery that's helping lift energy and material stocks. U.S. crude oil futures rose 21 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $36.35 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed up 33 cents to $36.14 a barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, added 27 cents to $36.38 a barrel in London. Prices for both contracts had fallen by more than a third over the past year but gains over the past day have provided hope to investors that the sector has hit bottom and is now stabilizing.

QUOTABLE: "The pause in the oil price and the weakness in the U.S. dollar appear to have helped equity markets overnight," said Angus Nicholson of IG. He noted that benchmark U.S. crude has now risen 6.5 per cent from its lowest point Tuesday.

HOLIDAY CALM: Overall, most financial markets are expected to trade in a narrow range until the New Year as traders take time off and the flow of major economic releases slows dramatically over the holiday period.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks posted gains for a second day. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1 per cent to close at 17,417.27 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.9 per cent to 2,038.97. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.7 per cent to 5,001.11.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was up slightly against the yen at 121.02 from 121.01 in the previous day's trading. The euro slipped to $1.0937 from $1.0951.



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