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Asia stocks higher as oil prices retreat; Nikkei gains 0.9%

Stock MarketsFeb 28, 2012 02:46AM ET
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This article has already been saved in your Saved Items - Asian stock markets were broadly higher on Tuesday, as concerns over rising energy prices eased after oil prices came off their highest level in nine months, while shares in Japanese retailers advanced after official data showed retail sales rose unexpectedly last month.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rallied 1.15%, Australia’s ASX/200 Index eased down 0.1%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.92%.

Oil prices fell below USD109 a barrel on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund warned that higher prices were likely to lead to a slowdown in the global economy.

In Hong Kong, shares in airliners performed strongly, recouping some of the previous day’s losses, with Cathay Pacific Airways soaring 4.7%, China Southern Airlines shares climbing 3.8% and Air China rising 1.8%.

Shares in the financial sector also contributed to gains in Hong Kong after the China Securities Journal reported that Beijing will allow Chinese banks to continue lending to local government financing vehicles.

The nation’s largest lender Industrial and Commercial Bank of China rose 2.35%, China Construction Bank added 1.6%, while Bank of China traded up 1.8%.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei reversed earlier losses to settle at a fresh seven-month high as retailers advanced after official data showed that retail sales rose by 1.9% in January, confounding expectations for a 0.2% decline.

Fast Retailing shares jumped 2.1%, while Seven & I Holdings and Takashimaya added 1.1% and 1.65% respectively.

But shares in the tech sector performed poorly after Elpida Memory filed for protection from creditors JPY448 billion in debt, the biggest bankruptcy filing by a Japanese manufacturer.

The company, which is the only chipmaker in Japan to specialize in DRAM chips used in mobile phones and computers, has been beset by plummeting prices, fierce competition and flooding in Thailand last year that disrupted production.

Elpida shares plunged 23.95%, while rivals Renesas Electronics and Advantest came off their lowest levels of the day, retreating 3.3% and 1.5% respectively.  

In Australia, shares in construction material manufacturer James Hardie lost 4.25% after reporting disappointing earnings results for its fiscal third quarter.

But shares in grocery manufacturer Goodman Fielder surged 33% after Singapore-listed Wilmar International said it had purchased a 10.1% equity stake in the firm.

Looking ahead, the outlook for European stock markets was upbeat after Germany’s parliament endorsed a second bailout for Greece by a wide margin. But gains were expected to be limited after ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Greece’s ratings to 'selective default'.

The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.45%, France’s CAC 40 futures added 0.4%, London’s FTSE 100 futures rose 0.15%, while Germany's DAX futures pointed to a 0.3% increase.

Later in the day, Germany was to release official data on consumer price inflation, while the U.S. was to produce official data on durable goods orders, as well as industry data on house price inflation and consumer confidence.
Asia stocks higher as oil prices retreat; Nikkei gains 0.9%

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