Thursday, December 24, 2015

Asian shares at 2-1/2-week high; crude oil rebounds

Asian shares climbed to 2-1/2-week highs on Thursday, heartened by gains on Wall Street and a recovery in crude oil prices in thin trading ahead of the Christmas holiday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.7 per cent after US stocks posted their third straight session of gains.

Now that this month's US Federal Reserve interest rate hike is out of the way, investors were left to ponder how much tightening the Fed has in store for 2016, as well as the impact of the hike on the rest of the world.

Australian shares jumped 1.3 per cent in a shortened Christmas Eve session, while Korea's KOSPI was up 0.3 per cent.

"The mood is dependent on moving oil and commodity prices following the Fed meeting," said Bae Sung-young, a stock analyst at Hyundai Securities.

US crude futures added 0.6 per cent at $37.71 a barrel, while Brent crude futures rose 0.6 per cent to $37.58. Both had added more than a dollar a barrel on Wednesday in thin trading, a day after Brent had touched its lowest level since July 2004.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3 per cent, after Japanese markets were closed on Wednesday for the Emperor's birthday.

Japan budget

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet had approved on Thursday a record fiscal 2016 budget that counts on higher growth and tax revenue to achieve Abe's aim of reviving the economy and reining in public debt.

Minutes of the Bank of Japan's November rate review released earlier in the session showed that many policymakers complained of slow wage and capital expenditure growth, but were optimistic that companies will start to boost spending once emerging economies improve.

"Even though the BOJ keeps the door open to further embark on the easing cycle, the recent comments from Governor Haruhiko Kuroda suggest the bar remains high for the committee to further expand its asset-purchase programme as the central bank head remains confident in achieving the 2 per cent inflation goal over the policy horizon," David Song, currency analyst at DailyFX, wrote in a note.

US data released overnight provided no real directional clues, as new orders for US manufactured capital goods fell last month, while personal income rose, and consumer sentiment hit a five-month high in December.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rival currencies, edged down 0.2 per cent to 98.134, below its two-week high of 99.294 set on Thursday last week after the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

The dollar slipped about 0.3 per cent against the yen to 120.62 yen, down from its Friday high of 123.49.

The euro added about 0.2 per cent to $1.0937.

Spot gold rose 0.4 per cent to $1,074.45 an ounce after languishing for two straight sessions of losses. Gold prices are still down more than 9 per cent for the year, weighed by positioning that took place ahead of the Fed's widely-anticipated rate hike.

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