Asian markets ended mostly higher, as rising oil prices lifted commodities-related shares in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.2% to 13579.16. Crude oil futures closed above $119 a barrel for the first time in New York overnight, boosting oil-related shares. Nippon Oil jumped 7.4% and Nippon Mining Holdings rose 5.5%. Idemitsu Kosan /zigman2/quotes/209216965/delayed JP:5019 -2.94% finished up 10.7% after the oil refiner said it now expects to post a group operating profit better than initially anticipated for the fiscal year ended March.
Trading houses rose on higher metal prices, with Mitsui /zigman2/quotes/203763780/delayed JP:7003 -1.45% gaining 4.9%. Shipping stocks advanced on a report that spot shipping fees for large oil tankers is surging. Nippon Yusen /zigman2/quotes/203488100/delayed JP:9101 -1.41% gained 1.4% and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines /zigman2/quotes/204152844/delayed JP:9104 -2.30% added 2.0%. Chugai Pharmaceutical /zigman2/quotes/201567084/delayed JP:4519 -2.21% rose 8.8% after lifting its earnings outlook for the fiscal year ending December.
China's Shanghai Composite Index, which tracks both Class A and Class B shares, ended up 4.2% at 3278.33 as widespread hopes Beijing will launch more market-supportive policies lifted shares. "Some investors are betting that Beijing will unveil other market-boosting measures after Sunday's new share-sale rule failed to spark a sustainable rally. The markets will rise sharply if Beijing does so, and these investors want to buy ahead of the wave," said Great Wall Securities analyst Zhang Yong. Brokerages led the gains Wednesday, with Citic Securities up 4.9%. Northeast Securities surged 6.9% while Sinolink Securities hit the 10% upside limit.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index rose 1.4% to 25289.24 as gains in heavyweight Chinese oil and insurance firms and sharp rises on the mainland's stock markets encouraged investors to shrug off Wall Street's overnight weakness.
Ping An Insurance /zigman2/quotes/210315058/delayed HK:2318 -1.95% , China's second-biggest life-insurance firm by premiums, led the gainers with a 5% rise. China Life /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 -6.70% rose 2.8% while PICC Property & Casualty /zigman2/quotes/203702440/delayed HK:2328 -7.33% ended 4.6% higher. China's two biggest listed oil firms by output also rose sharply with PetroChina /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -3.83% jumping 4.8% while Sinopec /zigman2/quotes/203060554/delayed HK:338 -2.93% advanced 3.8%.
Elsewhere, Seoul's Korea Composite Stock Price Index finished 0.7% at 1800.79 in its best close since Jan. 10. Investor sentiment got a lift from comments by Financial Services Commission Chairman Jun Kwang-Woo that preventing a sudden economic slowdown is more important than taking measures to curb the acceleration in inflation. The remark appears to have revived hopes for a rate cut in May, said Korea Investment & Securities analyst Kim Hak-Kyoon.
Stocks of companies with interests in China led the gains, as Posco, the world's fourth-largest steelmaker by output, rose 4.6%. Hyundai Steel ended 2.9% higher, Hyundai Heavy Industries gained 3.8% and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard climbed 5%. Among other advancers, KT&G Corp finished 2% higher after the tobacco company reported that its first-quarter net profit surged 51%.
In currencies, the dollar edged lower against the yen, standing at ¥103.01 compared to ¥103.09 late Tuesday in New York. The euro stood at $1.5995, up from $1.5916.
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