Asian stocks post gains as oil price improves

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Asian stocks mostly posted strong gains on Thursday as a rebound in the price of oil and solid U.S.

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manufacturing data boosted European markets and Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.3 per cent to 16,208.55 and South Korea's Kospi rose 1.1 per cent to 1,904.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 2.4 per cent to 19,389.98. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 2.3 per cent to 4,992.00. Stocks in mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asian were also higher.

IRAN RELIEF: Iran's oil minister said the country supports "any measure" to boost oil prices and voiced its support for a plan to stabilize and boost prices laid out earlier this week by four influential oil producers. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela reached the agreement in Doha to cap their crude output if others do the same. Markets have been rattled the months-long slump in oil prices, which has hammered the share prices of energy companies and spilled over into worries about losses for banks.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Initial disappointment on the tentative 'freeze' agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia was reversed after Iran voiced support for the agreement, raising hopes of further steps between major oil producers to stabilize the market," said Mizuho Bank in a daily commentary.

U.S. DATA: The Federal Reserve said U.S. factories cranked out more autos, furniture and food last month, boosting production by the most since July. Manufacturing output rose 0.5 per cent in January, after falling in four of the previous five months. Overall industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, added 0.9 per cent, the biggest jump in 14 months.

GLOBAL RALLY: On Wednesday, European stocks finished sharply higher and Wall Street extended its gains for a third day. Germany's DAX finished up 2.7 per cent and Britain's FTSE 100 jumped 2.9 per cent. France's CAC 40 closed 3 per cent higher. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.6 per cent to 16,453.83. The S&P 500 rose 1.7 per cent to 1,926.82. The Nasdaq composite index jumped 2.2 per cent to 4,534.06.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. oil added 63 cents to $31.29 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract jumped $1.62, or 5.6 per cent, to close at $30.66 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 59 cents to $35.09 in London after jumping 7.2 per cent the previous day.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 113.98 yen from 114.14 yen. The euro rose to $1.1137 from $1.1124.


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