Asian shares mixed as US advance, falling oil prices push Hong Kong, Nikkei to fresh highs

TOKYO – Asian shares were mixed Thursday, with gains supported by lower oil prices, firmness in U.S. markets and strong buying in Hong Kong by mainland Chinese investors.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index rose 0.6 per cent to 19,909.26, tapping fresh 15-year highs as the Japanese yen softened against the U.S. dollar. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 3.4 per cent to 27,136.37, breaching seven-year highs. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.2 per cent to 2,054.49, while Australia’s S&P ASX/200 slipped 0.4 per cent to 5,938.80. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed, while China’s Shanghai Composite fell 1.2 per cent to 3,946.74.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong shares rose after mainland Chinese investors bought heavily, pushing the benchmark up 6.3 per cent before it lost some ground on profit-taking. Chinese are shifting investments into Hong Kong, which is seen as a bargain following rallies in mainland Chinese markets that have made shares in Shanghai and Shenzhen relatively expensive.

THE QUOTE: “Money came flooding into Hong Kong’s stock market Wednesday, and the market took flight, trading at its highest since 2008 and setting record trading volumes,” Stephen Innes, senior trader for OANDA Asia Pacific, said in a commentary.

GLOBAL DEALMAKING: Shares were boosted by news that oil company Royal Dutch Shell had agreed to buy BG Group for $69.7 billion in cash and stock. A revival of major acquisitions has yielded almost $1 trillion in deals this year, according to data provider Dealogic. The premiums typically paid in such transactions tend to raise share prices.

WALL STREET: U.S. shares posted modest gains on Wednesday as investors awaited company earnings and puzzled over the likely timing of a future interest rate hike, following the release of minutes from the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.57 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 2,081.90. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 27.09 points at 17,902.51.

ENERGY: Oil fell nearly 7 per cent on Wednesday, its biggest drop in two months, after the Energy Department reported oil in storage was about triple what analysts had estimated. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 56 cents to $50.98 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $3.56 to close at $50.42 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, gained 48 cents to $57.17 after falling $3.55 overnight to close at $55.55 in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro was trading at $1.0767 versus $1.07797 on Wednesday. The dollar rose to 120.22 yen from its previous close of 120.15.