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Asia: Stocks edge up as crude prices stabilise

[TOKYO] Asian stocks poked into positive territory on Tuesday, shrugging off early losses as Chinese shares stabilised a day after marking their biggest loss in a month and crude prices took back some lost ground.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 per cent. But it remained on track to mark a loss of around 12 per cent for 2015, a year that saw it log a more than seven-year high in April.

China's blue-chip CSI300 index added 0.3 per cent, while the Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.2 per cent, after both skidded more than 2 per cent in the previous session.

Japan's Nikkei erased earlier losses and was up 0.3 per cent in afternoon trade, while South Korea's KOSPI was up 0.1 per cent.

Australian stocks rose 0.9 per cent, gaining for the eighth consecutive session after reopening following a four-day long holiday weekend.

Crude oil futures stabilised after both Brent and US crude prices dropped more than 3 per cent on Monday. Brent edged up 0.1 per cent a barrel to US$36.67, though it was still not far from an 11-year low of US$35.98 struck last week, while US crude also added about 0.1 per cent to US$36.85.

The overnight tumble sent U.S. energy shares down 1.8 per cent, the worst performing of the major S&P sectors. Wall Street marked modest losses after trading resumed following the Christmas break, with this week's activity is expected to remain thin until after the long New Year holiday weekend.

Spot gold rose 0.3 per cent to US$1,074.40 an ounce after falling overnight in line with crude. "Over the short-term, the precious metal will likely trend sideways, as funds look to close out the year and contemplate heading into next year with a fresh slate," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.

In currencies, the dollar edged down about 0.1 per cent to 120.29 yen, within striking distance of a two-month low of 120.05 struck late last week.

The greenback has been sapped by profit taking after the Federal Reserve this month hiked interest rates for the first time in nine years. Investors are waiting for the Fed to send fresh signals about when the second rate hike could take place in 2016 to determine the dollar's near-term direction.

The euro nudged up 0.1 per cent to $1.0979.

The dollar edged down against its Canadian counterpart to C$1.3872 after the loonie slipped overnight in line with weakening crude oil prices. The Canadian unit plumbed an 11-year low of C$1.4003 against the dollar earlier this month. "We are looking for USD/CAD to break 1.40 and head towards 1.45 in the first half of 2016. The oil industry is experiencing its biggest downturn since the 1990s and prices could fall another US$10 a barrel before bottoming," wrote Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management.

The Australian dollar gained about 0.2 per cent to US$0.7262 while the New Zealand dollar rose 0.3 per cent to US$0.6866.

China's yuan firmed against the dollar, having earlier hit its weakest level in 4-1/2 years on strong dollar demand, following the central bank's lowest midpoint fix since June 2011.