Markets in Asia notch moderate gains as oil prices rise to multi-year highs

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Asian markets closed with moderate gains on Thursday as oil prices traded higher after touching fresh multi-year highs.

The Nikkei 225 edged higher by 0.39 percent, or 88.30 points, to close at 22,497.18. The Topix was up 0.27 percent by the end of the day, with gains led by its mining and oil subindexes, up 2.93 percent and 1.97 percent, respectively.

Moderate gains were similarly seen in South Korea as the benchmark Kospi rose 0.83 percent to 2,464.16.

Greater China markets were in positive territory, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advancing 0.8 percent by 3:13 p.m. HK/SIN. Energy stocks notched significant gains, with CNOOC jumping 2.96 percent and contributing to the sector’s 2.46 percent overall gain before the market close.

On the mainland, the Shanghai composite edged up by 0.51 percent to end at 3,175.17 and the smaller Shenzhen composite advanced 0.52 percent to 1,844.04.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 tacked on 0.18 percent to close at 6,118.70 as oil producers contributed to the index’s gains on the back of oil’s climb. Woodside Petroleum was up 5.1 on the day.

MSCI’s broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan was up 0.67 percent in Asia afternoon trade.

Malaysia’s stock exchange will be shut on Thursday and Friday following the country’s general election.

The country’s former leader, Mahathir Mohamad, led an alliance of opposition parties to an unexpected victory at the general election, upsetting the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. The iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF dropped 6.03 percent overnight in reaction to the news, with uncertainty likely a focus for markets when they reopen.

Oil prices continued their move higher after touching multiyear highs overnight as investors digested the impact renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on oil supplies.

President Donald Trump had announced Tuesday that the U.S. would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Washington will probably renew sanctions on the OPEC member after 180 days, unless some other deal is reached, Reuters reported.

U.S. crude futures rose 0.69 percent to $71.63 per barrel. Brent crude futures advanced 0.6 percent to trade at $77.67, after rising to a high of $77.89 earlier — its strongest levels since the end of 2014. Both contracts had settled more than 3 percent higher in the last session.

The gains also came on the back of a larger-than-expected decline in U.S. crude inventories.

It would not be surprising if oil prices continued to rise, James Norman, president of QS Investors, told CNBC. He said that a downside risk to prices, however, is if economic data begin to point to signs of slowing.

The move higher in Asian markets also came after U.S. stock indexes gained on Wednesday, with energy shares advancing on the move higher in oil prices overnight.

Also of note, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note crossed the 3 percent level on Wednesday. The 10-year yield pulled back slightly on Thursday, standing at 2.98 percent in Asia afternoon trade.

In corporate news, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing stepped down as chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings on Thursday as the company held its annual general meeting. Li had announced earlier this year his son, Victor Li, would take over the position.

Elsewhere, the head of South Korea’s antitrust watchdog told the media that Samsung Group’s ownership structure was “not sustainable,” Reuters said. Samsung Electronics closed up 1.38 percent despite the comments.

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