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Asian shares mostly higher after US retail data

Friday, December 12, 2014 - 10:57

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose on Friday at the end of a painful week for global shares, as a strong report on US retail sales lifted spirits and Wall Street, while the dollar fought back against the yen's recent revival.

Oil prices continued to tumble after New York's main contract sank through the US$60-a-barrel mark in US trade for the first time in more than five years.

Tokyo rose 1.27 per cent on the back of the yen's retreat, while Seoul added 0.32 per cent, Shanghai edged up 0.12 per cent and Hong Kong was 0.24 per cent higher but Sydney eased 0.38 per cent.

Global markets have been buffeted by profit-taking this week, while Shanghai has swung wildly after racking up more than 20 per cent since the middle of November.

However, spirits were lifted by a rally on Wall Street that came in reaction to a healthy US consumer report.

The Commerce Department said retail sales in November, when the holiday shopping season starts, rose a solid 0.7 per cent month on month and 5.1 percent over the year. The figures are closely watched as consumer spending accounts for almost three quarters of output in the world's biggest economy.

Also, jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, fell in the week to December 6.

In New York the Dow gained 0.36 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.45 per cent and the Nasdaq rose 0.52 per cent.

Thursday's news was the latest to indicate the United States is on a strong recovery track and will add to pressure on the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates sooner than later, buoying the dollar.

The dollar - which slipped to as low as 117.67 yen Thursday - bought 119.10 yen in morning Tokyo trade Friday, compared with 118.65 yen in late New York trade.

On oil markets the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for January delivery, fell 91 cents to US$59.04 in Asia. The contract fell below US$60 in New York for the first time since July 2009 in reaction to a report showing US stockpiles were more than expected, adding to an already oversupplied global market. Brent crude eased 61 cents to US$63.07.

The euro was struggling after losing ground to the dollar following a disappointing take-up for the European Central Bank's latest round of cheap loan offers to banks aimed at boosting the economy.

The ECB said 306 banks borrowed 129.8 billion euros (US$162 billion) in the second round of its programme, compared with forecasts of around 150 billion euros.

The result added to speculation the Bank will launch a more aggressive monetary easing drive early next year, further pressing down the euro.

"Low ECB loan uptake should seal the deal," said Jennifer McKeown of Capital Economics.

The common European currency slipped to US$1.2394 Friday from US$1.2410 in US trade, although it firmed to 147.52 yen from 147.24 yen Gold was at US$1,224.68 an ounce compared with $1,221.25 late Thursday.

AFP

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