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Asia: Stocks mostly up after Wall Street rally

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[HONG KONG] Most Asian stock markets rose on Thursday following a positive lead from Wall Street, as investors look ahead to an expected Bank of England rate cut and the release of US jobs data.

Oil prices extended gains in Asia, giving a lift to energy and mining stocks after mixed data from the US Department of Energy showed crude supplies up, but falling gasoline stock.

A better-than-expected reading on US private jobs also supported a Wall Street rally, with payroll firm ADP reporting that private US companies added 179,000 jobs in July, slightly better than expected.

"Oil has once again established itself as the central thematic behind the world's financial markets," said Chris Weston, an analyst for IG in Melbourne.

"US data was largely upbeat, with the ADP private payrolls providing some belief that Friday's non-farm payrolls will not be a repeat of the woeful print we saw in May."

The US Labor Department is due to announce official job-creation data for July on Friday, with markets looking for signs that could increase the likelihood of a hike in US interest rates.

Sydney rose 0.5 per cent, while Hong Kong also got a lift after a heavy sell-off in the previous session, putting on 0.6 per cent.

Seoul added 0.2 per cent while Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok were also up.

But Tokyo shares slipped 0.4 per cent by the break after a rally at the start of trade fizzled, with a stronger yen hitting exporters, adding to a more than three per cent drop over the past two days.

The greenback fell to 101.12 yen from 101.25 yen Wednesday in New York.

A stronger Japanese currency hits the repatriated profits of Japan's exporters and makes their products more expensive overseas.

Shanghai dipped 0.4 per cent as investors stayed on the sidelines awaiting the release of economic data next week, dealers said.

The gains in Asia came after British stocks dipped as data suggested an economic hit from the Brexit vote, just ahead of a key Bank of England policy decision.

Data monitoring company Markit's preliminary composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the services industry in Britain sank to 47.4 points in July, down from 52.3 in June. A reading under 50 indicates contraction.

Market watchers expect the Bank of England Thursday to cut interest rates to a record-low 0.25 per cent and to potentially boost its bond-buying stimulus programme.

Energy and mining companies gave Asia a lift, after oil prices rose markedly overnight following several days of losses.

At around 0330 GMT, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was at US$41.16 a barrel while North Sea Brent was trading at US$43.33.

Among the biggest gainers were Sydney-listed WorleyParsons, adding 4.5 per cent, Origin Energy which was up 3 per cent and BHP Biliton, which rose 2.3 per cent. In Hong Kong, CNOOC put on 3.6 per cent.

Energy-linked shares in Tokyo also recorded gains, with explorer Inpex jumping 1.48 per cent to 778 yen and oil refiner JX Holdings edging up 0.10 per cent at 375.9 yen.