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Asian shares mixed as crude prices fall nearly 1% after major US oil inventory build

Asian markets traded mixed on Wednesday afternoon, reversing some earlier losses, while oil prices remained under pressure after data overnight showed a build-up in U.S. crude inventory.

Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average closed up 96.82 points, or 0.51 percent, at 19,007.60, retracing mild earlier losses. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi closed down 10.13 points, or 0.49 percent, at 2,065.08. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 153.56 points, or 0.66 percent, to 23,485.13, erasing earlier losses of nearly 0.5 percent, while Chinese mainland shares also posted gains.

The Shanghai composite gained 14.35 points, or 0.46 percent, to 3,167.44, retracing losses of nearly 0.4 percent, and the Shenzhen composite added 14.61 points, or 0.75 percent, to 1,941.79.

Markets in Singapore, Indonesia and India traded lower in the afternoon.

Australia's ASX 200 closed up 29.47 points, or 0.52 percent, at 5,651.40, but the energy sector declined 0.96 percent. Oil plays in the country ended mostly lower, with Santos shares losing 1.29 percent, Oil Search down 1.01 percent and Beach Energy lower by 2.65 percent.

Oil prices declined on Wednesday, extending Tuesday's more than 1 percent drop after data showed a build-up in U.S. crude inventory. Reuters reported weekly data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) estimated U.S. crude stockpiles surged by 14.2 million barrels last week.

Other oil plays in Asia finished mostly lower, with Japan's Inpex down 1.12 percent. Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese energy plays CNOOC fell 1.24 percent and PetroChina shed 0.17 percent. Sinopec Corp reversed losses of more than 0.3 percent to close up 0.33 percent.

U.S. crude fell 0.79 percent to $51.76 a barrel by 4:15 p.m. HK/SIN on Wednesday, climbing from an earlier low of $51.22, while global benchmark Brent lost 0.49 percent to $54.78.

Some analysts had expected the decline in oil prices following the API numbers.

"The herd, already nervous from the previous days price action, turned en masse and ran off the cliff," Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note.

Halley expects crude prices to remain under pressure. "Clearly increased shale production is now taking its toll," he said, adding if the Energy Information Administration's crude inventory numbers, due later in the global day, show a large build, prices could fall further.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Resources producer BHP Billiton fell 0.85 percent, after reports said the miner planned to halt production at a Chilean copper mine due to a workers' strike on Thursday. Reuters reported that BHP said it could not guarantee the safety of the 80 workers the Chilean government had authorized to remain at the Escondida mine to perform "critical duties," such as equipment upkeep and adherence to environmental protocols.

On the currency market, the dollar traded relatively higher against a basket of currencies at 100.41 at 2:19 p.m. HK/SIN, climbing from levels below 100 in previous sessions.

"Over the past few days...slowly but surely the dollar has managed to crawl its way back up," said Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at the National Australia Bank, in a note.

"To some extent, the dollar has won the least-ugly contest as the focus appears to have shifted away from the U.S. towards political and fiscal uncertainty in Europe," said Catril.

Among other major currency pairs, the yen traded at 112.28 against the dollar, climbing from an earlier low of 112.00 but stronger than levels above 113.4 reached last week.

Japanese exporters finished the session mostly higher, with Toyota shares up 0.61 percent, Nissan up 0.85 percent and Honda advancing 0.93 percent. Shares of Mazda finished down 0.45 percent, retracing some of its earlier losses of nearly 1.4 percent, and Sony shares closed down 0.72 percent.

Fujitsu shares declined 3.81 percent to 651.5 yen, after Reuters reported the electronic conglomerate's biggest shareholder, Fuji Electric, planned to sell about $1 billion worth of Fujitsu shares, or about an 8.2 percent stake in the company.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar fetched $0.7640, while the euro traded at $1.0677.

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