Asia Markets

Energy shares climb, pulling Asia shares higher


Energy shares across Asia climbed Wednesday after oil prices surged overnight, helping to pull most Asia markets into positive territory.

A trifecta of oil-positive news helped to push up crude prices. For one, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast demand would rise at its fastest pace in six years in 2016.

"These revisions follow a decrease in the oil rig count on Friday and expectations for further inventory draws in tomorrow's Department of Energy data," Barclays said in a note Wednesday.

Additionally, news that Russia and Saudi Arabia held talks about the oil market last week spurred speculation of possible cooperation on reducing the global oil-supply glut.

In Asian trade, Nymex light sweet crude tacked on 2.1 percent to $49.56 a barrel and Brent added 1.3 percent to $52.61. That follows crude oil futures settling up 4.91 percent and Brent advancing more than 4 percent in overnight trade.

Across Asia, energy shares surged, supporting broader markets. In Australia, Woodside climbed 6.0 percent and Origin Energy tacked on 9.7 percent. AWE surged 15.1 percent after it reported strong flows at a natural gas test well in Western Australia. Another gas player, LNG, tacked on 21.6 percent.

The broader S&P ASX index ended up 0.6 percent after wavering between positive and negative territory, weighed a bit by Telstra, which was off 0.7 percent.

In Japan, energy play Inpex climbed 7.2 percent. But the Nikkei was volatile in the afternoon session, trading down as much as 0.8 percent after the Bank of Japan (BOJ) left its policy unchanged at its closely watched policy meeting Wednesday. But the index later recovered, ending up 0.8 percent.

Some analysts had been expecting the central bank may expand its stimulus program after a string of mixed data releases. The on-hold decision strengthened the yen, with the U.S. dollar fetching as little as 119.79 yen, from around 120.25 before the decision, before recovering to as high as 120.11 yen later in the session.

While standing pat on policy likely disappointed some market players, comments last week from Kozo Yamamoto, a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that the BOJ should ease this month may be providing some support to the market, Ben Collett, head of Asian equities at Sunrise Brokers, said.

He added that the Nikkei's intraday recovery was likely due to short covering, but he noted volumes were low.

Last week, the BOJ's quarterly tankan survey of corporate sentiment showed big manufacturers' confidence worsened in the three months to September, underscoring the lackluster state of the nation's economy.

Heavily weighted Fast Retailing shed 1.6 percent, possibly weighed by dampened sentiment over China's outlook, where the company gets much of its revenue; it's planning a rapid expansion there. Concerns about China may have been amplified after shares in KFC parent Yum Brands plunged about 18 percent in after-hours U.S. trade Tuesday after it missed Wall Street's earnings and revenue estimates, particularly on China same-store sales.

Sony ended up 1.6 percent after announcing plans to split off its semiconductor unit, in a step to highlight the fast-growth in its image sensor business.

Japan airline shares tanked, with Japan Airlines dropping 2.5 percent and ANA falling 1.7 percent, potentially hit by a double-whammy of higher oil prices, which can boost fuel costs, and news that Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia's unit AirAsia Japan is expected to start flights next year.

That wasn't the only reason AirAsia was in the spotlight: its shares climbed as much as 8 percent intraday after Reuters reported the budget carrier's founders are talking with investors about taking the company private. A negative research report on the company recently helped send the shares as low as its initial public offering price more than 10 years ago. Malaysia's benchmark index, the KLCI, edged up 0.2 percent.

South Korea's Kospi closed up 0.8 percent, boosted by a 8.7 percent surge in heavyweight Samsung Electronics. The technology and appliance titan said Wednesday that it expects operating profit for the July-September quarter will rise around 80 percent from a year earlier, beating expectations.

Hong Kong shares were also boosted by energy gains, with Cnooc surging 8.1 percent and Sinopec climbing 4.7 percent. The Hang Seng Index gained 1.0 percent.

China's markets remain closed for the National Day holiday, with trading set to resume on October 8.

The S&P 500 closed about 0.4 percent lower after posting its first five-day winning streak for 2015 on Monday. The composite underperformed, closing down about 0.7 percent, weighed by biotech declines, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average clung to gains of about 14 points or 0.08 percent.