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Shanghai soars despite muted post-Christmas trade in Asia markets

[HONG KONG] Asian markets were mainly flat on Friday with trade quiet across the region as key bourses remained closed for the Christmas holidays, but Shanghai soared to a four-year high as financial stocks surged.

Tokyo inched up 0.06 per cent, or 10.21 points, to finish at 17,818.96, while Seoul edged up 0.08 per cent, or 1.55 points, to finish at 1,948.16.

Shanghai jumped 2.77 per cent, or 85.06 points, to 3,157.60 on turnover of 488.9 billion yuan (US$79.9 billion).

The close marked the highest since November 8, 2010 when the Shanghai index ended at 3,159.51 points.

The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, rose 1.04 per cent, or 14.86 points, to 1,439.48 on turnover of 221.2 billion yuan.

Financial stocks lead the increases - Bank of Communications rose by 4 per cent and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was 3.2 per cent higher.

In Japan, the market largely shrugged off a barrage of fresh Japanese data that provided further evidence of slowdown in the world's number three economy.

The nation's industrial output suffered a surprise drop in November, turning down after two months of rises.

Japanese core consumer inflation continued to slow in November, dealing another challenge to Tokyo and the Japanese central bank's battle to conquer years of deflation.

Taipei rose 0.6 per cent, or 55.37 points, to 9,214.07.

Markets in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia were closed Friday for a public holiday.

There was also no overnight guidance from Europe or the US markets, which were closed for Christmas.

Oil prices rose in Asia Friday as dealers reacted to a surprise Islamist attack on Libya's main oil terminals that left 22 soldiers dead.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rose 10 cents to US$55.94 in afternoon trade, while Brent for February gained nine cents to US$60.33.

Since fresh clashes between government forces and the jihadists erupted on December 13, Libya's oil production has dropped to nearly 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, according to industry experts.

Production in Libya, a member of the OPEC oil-producing cartel, has only just started to rise following a prolonged disruption due to civil unrest.

On the currency markets, the greenback was changing hands at 120.25 yen, edging up from 120.14 in Asia on Thursday.

The euro was mixed at $1.2214 and 146.87 yen, from US$1.2216 and 146.78 yen.

Gold was at US$1,196.96 an ounce, compared with US$1,179.80 late Christmas Eve.

In other markets: - Mumbai rose 0.12 per cent, or 33.17 points, to end at 27,241.78 points.

Housing Development Finance Corp gained 1.18 per cent to 1,114.05 rupees, while auto maker Maruti fell 1.31 per cent to 3,330.95 rupees.

- Kuala Lumpur gained 0.84 per cent, or 14.7 points, to 1,764.44.

Malayan Banking rose 1.66 per cent to 9.16 ringgit, while AMMB Holdings went up 0.30 per cent to 6.60 ringgit.

- Singapore closed up 0.23 per cent, or 7.77 points, to 3,353.68.

Real estate developer Capitaland gained 0.93 per cent to S$3.27 while United Overseas Bank rose 0.49 per cent to S$24.48.

- Bangkok gained 0.3 per cent, or 5.52 points, to close at 1,510.41.

True Corporation lost 2.65 per cent, or 0.3 points, to 11.00 baht, while Kasikorn Bank gained 0.44 per cent, or 1 point, to close at 230.00 baht.