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Asian shares mostly up after Christmas break

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Monday on the first full day of trade after the Christmas break, with confidence boosted by Chinese easing measures and another Wall Street record.

Shares in AirAsia tumbled after one of the budget carrier's jets went missing with 162 people on board Sunday and had still not been found early Monday.

Tokyo added 0.31 per cent, Hong Kong jumped 1.48 per cent, Sydney rose 1.01 per cent and Seoul lost 0.51 per cent while Shanghai rallied 1.26 per cent.

With most bourses were closed at the end of last week, Monday was the first time dealers were able to react to the positive news out of the United States and China.

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On Wall Street Friday Dow notched its seventh straight gain, advancing 0.13 per cent to another record, while the S&P 500 jumped 0.33 per cent, also a hitting an all-time high following news that the US economy grew five percent in July-September. The Nasdaq gained 0.70 per cent.

The rate was the best in 11 years and is yet another indicator showing the world's number one economy is well on the recovery track.

It will also add to calls for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates next year, boosting the dollar against the yen.

In early Tokyo trade the greenback was at 120.48 yen, compared with 120.37 in New York Friday.

The euro bought US$1.2183 and 146.80 yen, against US$1.2179 and 146.59 yen.

Adding to buying confidence is news that China's State Council late Wednesday announced preferential policies for manufacturers, including a promise to extend financial support, especially to large-scale equipment makers, to expand their exports.

The move is the latest by Beijing to kickstart the Chinese economy, which has been hit by a slew of weak data, including on exports, manufacturing consumer spending and investment.

Kuala Lumpur-listed shares in AirAsia shed 12 per cent at one point on news that a plane from its Indonesian affiliate went down in the Java Sea Sunday morning.

However, they recovered slightly to sit 7.5 per cent lower in late morning trade as search and rescue operations resumed.

Oil prices rose after fresh violence erupted in Libya. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery gained 73 US cents to US$55.46 while Brent crude for February was up 55 US cents to US$60.00.

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government on Sunday carried out air strikes against Islamist militia following attacks on the country's crucial Al-Sidra oil export terminal.

The Fajr Libya group has been been trying to take Al-Sidra and the nearby Ras Lanuf terminal since Thursday.

Seven oil storage tanks at Al-Sidra were set on fire as a result of the fighting.

Since fresh clashes first erupted around the export terminals on December 13, Libya's oil production has dropped to fewer than 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, industry experts say.

Gold was at US$1,194.56 an ounce, compared with US$1,196.96 Friday.