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Asia: Markets rise as oil lifts energy firms

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Asian markets rallied on Thursday following a positive lead from Wall Street, with energy firms tracking a surge in oil prices as dealers welcomed a surprise drop in US stockpiles.

[HONG KONG] Asian markets rallied on Thursday following a positive lead from Wall Street, with energy firms tracking a surge in oil prices as dealers welcomed a surprise drop in US stockpiles.

The US energy department said crude inventories fell almost twice as much as expected last week, fanning hopes about demand in the world's top economy and sending both main oil contracts rallying more than two percent.

The report was the latest positive for the oil market, which has been rallying since Opec last month made an agreement to cut output in a bid to address a global glut.

While oil dipped on Thursday, the previous day's gains provided support to energy companies across Asia, with Hong Kong-listed CNOOC and PetroChina each up more than two per cent. In Tokyo Inpex and Showa Shell Sekiyu gained more than one per cent and BHP Billiton added 1.5 per cent.

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Those gains lifted broader markets and by the break Tokyo was 1.0 per cent higher, while Hong Kong gained 0.8 per cent and Shanghai put on 0.1 per cent. Sydney, Seoul and Singapore each rose 0.2 per cent.

Dealers are also keeping an eye on the final US presidential debate between market favourite Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent Donald Trump.

"The presidential debate is a must watch for investors in the Asia-Pacific region," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist in Sydney at CMC Markets, said in an e-mail to clients.

"A clear win for either candidate is important - markets are likely to buy Clinton and sell Trump."

On forex markets the dollar edged up slightly against the euro ahead of a closely watched European Central Bank meeting, the first since rumours emerged that it is considering tapering its vast stimulus scheme.

Despite the chatter, many analysts expect it to maintain its easing programme and possibly flag fresh measures in December.

AFP

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