Asia-Pacific Markets

Surging Oil, Intel Outlook Lifts Asian Markets

Asian markets moved forward Wednesday, with high-tech exporters buoyed by a reassuring outlook from industry leader Intel and energy shares underpinned by record high oil prices. Japan and Australia both closed over 1 percent higher

Financial stocks also climbed after several U.S. regional banks' quarterly results beat forecasts, suggesting it was not all doom and gloom in a sector roiled by the U.S. mortgage market meltdown and the global credit crunch. The battered U.S. dollar gained some ground after surprisingly strong U.S. inflation and manufacturing data suggested the Federal Reserve may be less

Energy firms such as Australia's Woodside Petroleum, South Korea's SK Energy and Japan's Inpex Holdings gained after oil prices jumped to a record over $114 a barrel on Tuesday amid supply worries and weakness in the U.S. dollar.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average closed 1.2 percent higher boosted by chip-related shares such as Tokyo Electron and other high-tech exporters on optimism about their profitability after Intel affirmed its profit-margin target for 2008. Financial shares, including top lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, picked up steam after stronger-than-expected quarterly results at several U.S. regional banks boosted shares of financial companies there. JVC shot up more than 6 percentafter the Nikkei business daily said the firm plans to end domestic production and sales of flat-panel televisions, succumbing to fierce competition, and will instead focus on North America and Europe.

Seoul stocks finished up 0.9 percent with gains by energy firms such as on improving refining
margins outweighing some technology titles' losses. Mobile phone and appliance maker LG Electronics closed slightly lower after first-quarter net profits came in strong but below expectations.

Australian shares gained 1.3 percent, led up by resource firms such as Woodside Petroleum and BHP Billiton on record high oil prices. Banking firms also rose following upbeat earnings at several U.S. regional banks, though sentiment was somewhat dampened by a report that Merrill Lynch will announce a further $6 billion to $8 billion of asset writedowns in its quarterly results this week 

Hong Kong stocks closed lower by 0.1 percent as lingering concerns over the health of the U.S. economy and possible tightening measures by Beijing discouraged investors from taking aggressive positions, with gains also capped by profit-taking. Airline stocks remained under pressure as crude oil prices hit a record high. China Eastern Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Southern and Air China were all lower.

Singapore's Straits Times Index ended over 1 percent higher. Shares of rig-makers extended gains for a second day after crude prices hit a fresh record and as JPMorgan said Singapore
offshore firms could benefit from Petrobras making a big oilfield discovery in Brazil. Keppel Corp, the world's biggest builder of offshore oil rigs, rose over 6 percent.