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Asian Shares Edge Higher, Supported By Oil, Metals Rally

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 per cent to the highest since late November.

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Asian Shares Edge Higher, Supported By Oil, Metals Rally

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan is up 31.6% so far this year

Sydney: Oil prices were supported around a two-and-a-half-year top on Wednesday after an explosion of a Libyan crude pipeline sparked supply fears while gold and copper hovered near multi-week highs, boosting commodity- and energy-linked shares around Asia.

Trading was generally thin across the board in a holiday-shortened week.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 per cent to the highest since late November.

For the year so far, the index has added 31.6 per cent.

The rally in oil and metals prices helped Asian stocks overcome overnight losses on Wall Street led by a tumble in Apple Inc .

Australian shares advanced 0.3 per cent on Wednesday to a near decade high of 6,092.8 points, with materials and energy sectors leading gains.

Mining giant BHP Billiton was among the top gainers on the index, followed by Woodside Petroleum and gold miner Newcrest.

Japan's Nikkei was up 0.1 per cent.

US crude touched $60 a barrel after armed assailants blew up a pipeline pumping crude oil to the port of Es Sider on Tuesday. 

Brent crude , the international benchmark for oil prices, settled at $67.02 a barrel. US crude was off 18 cents at $59.79 a barrel after going as far as $60.01, a peak not seen since mid-2015.

Gold climbed to $1,283.7 an ounce, the highest since early December while copper surged to $7,139, a level last visited around mid-October.

"If one is holding a long position in Brent, US crude, heating oil, copper, aluminium or silver, or exposed to these commodities through equity then your Christmas has just been extended a little longer," said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based chief market strategist at IG.

"The supply-demand equation continues to favour on-going support for the barrel and further plays into one of the big macro dynamics for 2018. That being a slow, yet steady rise in inflation and price pressures."

Price pressures

Inflation has remained elusive in 2017 despite a pick up in global growth, puzzling policymakers around the world.

But several economists have predicted the return of inflationary pressures in 2018 which would help central banks wind down years of super-easy policies and hike interest rates.

The Federal Reserve raised rates three times this year and is set to deliver further hikes in 2018. The European Central Bank is expected to finally begin clawing back its monetary stimulus and tighten policy after keeping the deposit rate below zero since 2014.

The ECB has pledged to continue buying bonds at least until September. But with economic growth in the euro zone on its best run in a decade and inflation comfortably above 1 percent, it is widely expected to wind down the programme thereafter. 

In forex markets, trading was thin with most major currencies muted. The euro held at $1.1857 and the dollar was barely changed at 113.19 yen.

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For the year, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against other major currencies, is seen ending about 9 per cent lower. It is down about 3 per cent on the yen this year.

The euro, the Aussie and the British pound are among the best performing major currencies this year.
© Thomson Reuters 2017


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