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Asian Stocks Rise on Upbeat US Data

CNBC.com with Reuters
Thursday, 3 Mar 2011 | 5:14 AM ET

Asian stocks edged higher on Thursday, with upbeat U.S. economic data helping offset worries about surging oil prices due to turmoil in the Middle East.

Japan's stocks climbed, recouping some of the previous session's losses/ Exporters led the advance on short-covering after the market posted its biggest loss this year on Wednesday.

The benchmark Nikkei ended the day up 0.9 percent. The broader Topix gained 0.6 percent.

Advantest climbed 1.5 percent after the Nikkei business daily said the company has developed the technology for a next-generation multipurpose chip tester that allows semiconductor makers to check a wide range of microchips with a single machine.

Energy-related shares fell prey to profit-taking in the last hour of the trade, as the price of oil retreated to the session's low of $101.54 after Reuters said both Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the president of the Arab League agreed to a peace plan from Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to end the crisis in the North African country, citing a news network.

Despite posting strong gains earlier, Japan's largest oil and gas developer, Inpex Corp, ended the session flat at 573,000 yen. Inpex has surged some 21 percent in 2011 amid the turmoil in the Middle East, overwhelming the Nikkei's 3.5 percent gain in the same period.

Exporters were higher on short-covering, with Hitachi rising 1 percent to 497 yen and Honda Motor adding 0.9 percent.

Seoul shares snapped a two-day losing streak to close higher, lifted by positive U.S. economic news and Wall Street gains.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended up 2.2 percent.

Australia's share market ended a few points better off, remaining in its recent range after a test of chart support again uncovered demand, with gains in energy companies and miners offsetting weakness in banks and stocks trading ex-dividend.

Top banks and many industrials lost ground after oil prices hit their highest since August 2008 as upheaval in major oil-producing nations continues.

Also pressuring the market was the due date for many stocks to trade exclusive of dividend on Thursday, producing the biggest percentage-term falls in stocks such as Perpetual, Goodman Fielder, West Australian Newspapers, Fleetwood, Insurance Australia and IOOF Holdings

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 3.2 points to 4,806.4.

Bourse operator ASX rose 0.6 percent to A$35.88. The takeover is set to lose its two-decade monopoly later this year after Australia's securities regulator on Thursday opened the door to competition from Nomura's Chi-X.

Austar rose 8 percent, continuing to gain after it revealed larger pay-TV operator Foxtel was in talks about a potential $2 billion bid.

Elsewhere in media, Seven fell 2.2 percent while Ten Network rose 2.3 percent to A$1.34 after Seven's former head sales executive James Warburton resigned to become Chief Executive of Ten.

Santos rose 1.1 percent to A$14.49 while Woodside Petroleum rose 1.3 percent after U.S. crude futures ended above $100 for the first time since September 2008 and Brent crude hit its highest since Aug. 21, 2008.

Hong Kong shares rose, lifted by mainland banking counters, while covering of short-positions in large built over the past week gave the rally a further leg-up.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed up 0.3 percent.

But, the Shanghai Composite Index reversed earlier gains to close down 0.4 percent, after investors pulled out of industrial shares due to high oil prices, but a banking sector perceived as undervalued continued to gain.

China Merchants Bank extended a five-day upward streak, gaining 4.2 percent in Shanghai in the heaviest trading volume since October last year. Its Hong Kong-listed shares rose 2.3 percent.

Warren Buffett-backed BYD climbed 5.1 percent in active trading on optimism over news that the Chinese government had granted approval for its joint venture with German automaker Daimler AG.

Singapore shares gained as investors lapped up commodity shares such as Wilmar, while sentiment was lifted by optimistic comments by the Federal Reserve about the U.S. economy.

The Straits Times Index ended up 0.3 percent.

Malaysian palm oil futures rose more than 2 percent before easing on Thursday as traders eyed growing demand for biodiesel while tension in the Middle East boosted crude oil. Palm oil firm Golden Agri-Resources also rose 2.2 percent.

The FTSE CNBC 100 Index climbed 0.4 percent.