Asian shares rise due to advance of oil prices

TOKYO - Asian shares were mostly higher on Thursday, taking cues from overnight gains as higher oil prices lifted shares in oil and gas companies.

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Regional markets also are still finding reasons for optimism from the outcome of a major planning conference in China, where leaders committed to further spending and monetary easing to support growth.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index rose 0.3 per cent to 18,935.65, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.6 per cent to 22,169.02. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 1.3 per cent to 5,207.60, and South Korea's Kospi edged 0.2 per cent higher to 2,003.31. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.3 per cent to 3,587.50, but markets in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and New Zealand were higher.

HOLIDAY SPIRIT: The rise in oil prices and positive readings from the outcome of an annual planning meeting in China, the Central Economic Work Conference, appeared to be driving gains ahead of the holidays, analysts said.

THE QUOTE: "Equity markets look keen to have a good Christmas break and deal with the hangover of ongoing systemic issues in the New Year," Angus Nicholson of IG said in a market note. Apart from gains in oil prices, "The market is also still steadily digesting the good news from China's Central Economic Work Conference," he said.

WALL STREET: Trading was light ahead of Christmas and New Year holidays. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 185.34 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 17,602.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 25.32 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 2,064.29. U.S. markets will be open for only a half day on Thursday.

ENERGY: Oil prices continued their recovery from lows earlier in the week. U.S. crude futures gained 24 cents to $37.74 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. They jumped $1.36, or 3.8 per cent, to $37.50 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, also was up 24 cents, at $37.60. It added $1.25, or 3.5 per cent, to $37.36 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged lower, to 120.62 yen from 120.92 in the previous session. The euro was slightly higher, at $1.0938, up from $1.0914.



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