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Asia: Markets push higher after Wall St, oil rallies


[HONG KONG] Asian stock markets rallied again Thursday as another surge in oil prices and gains on Wall Street reinforced optimism over the world economy.

With a positive vibe flowing across trading floors, investors shifted out of safe-bet assets such as the yen, which helped Japan's Nikkei record a third-straight gain.

However, carmaker Mitsubishi Motors was untraded owing to an overwhelming number of sell orders, a day after collapsing 15 per cent on news it falsified fuel-efficiency tests on hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

New York investors provided a solid platform for their Asian counterparts thanks to another jump in crude prices that came in response to data showing US production fell last week.

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The two main contracts soared around four percent after the news - putting them both into the mid-US$40 a barrel zone.

While prices dipped slightly Thursday morning, the commodity is sitting at its highest levels this year, just days after the failure of much-anticipated talks between major producers aimed at limiting output.

Analysts said confidence has been buoyed in recent weeks by a string of healthy data out of China, the world's number two economy, and the Federal Reserve's shift to put off any interest rate hikes until after June.

"Investors' appetite for risk assets has been renewed," Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist at Chicago-based Northern Trust, told Bloomberg News.

"China's efforts to stabilise its economy have begun to show positive effects and the Federal Reserve appears to be taking a more realistic outlook of the challenges it faces in normalising rates." The Nikkei finished the morning two percent higher as the yen eased against the dollar. The greenback has climbed to near the 110 yen level not seen since the start of the month, which has shored up Japan's exporters.

Mitsubishi was unpriced, but based on sell and buy orders it was heading for a fall of 20.46 per cent to a stop low - or the maximum single-day loss allowed - of 583 yen.

The firm crashed Wednesday after admitting it falsified fuel-efficiency tests in more than 600,000 vehicles. Testing was manipulated to boost fuel economy rates above the cars' actual level.

In other markets Hong Kong was up 1.3 per cent and Sydney added 0.8 per cent while Seoul climbed 0.5 per cent. Singapore and Taipei each rose 0.3 per cent and Manila was up 0.4 per cent.

However, Shanghai was 0.1 per cent lower, extending the previous day's losses, with analysts suggesting the recent batch of upbeat data has fuelled fears Chinese authorities will hold off unveiling any fresh stimulus for the time being.