Asian shares eke out gains after copper soars

Asian markets carved out gains on Thursday following a rally in oil and copper prices this week. Trade was thin ahead of the long New Year’s weekend.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index gained 0.12 percent, with most energy stocks that had run up in the previous session giving up their gains. Banks edged lower, while tech firms and automakers were mixed. SoftBank Group rose 0.74 percent, and Toyota was off 0.1 percent.

Those moves came after official data released earlier in the morning showed retail sales and industrial output for November had both topped median projections.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.59 percent, driven by gains in blue-chip tech names. Samsung Electronics rose 1.94 percent, shrugging off headlines on Wednesday that prosecutors were looking for a 12-year prison sentence for Jay Y. Lee. The Samsung Electronics vice chairman is appealing a five-year sentence linked to a corruption case.

In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 inched higher by 0.08 percent, as gains in the resources space were offset by losses in utilities and real estate investment trusts. Greater China markets were higher in early trade. The Hang Seng Index tacked on 0.5 percent while mainland markets pared some losses seen on Wednesday. The Shanghai Composite edged up 0.23 percent and the Shenzhen Composite advanced 0.51 percent.

Stateside, Wall Street closed slightly higher on Wednesday amid thin trade as gains in real estate and utilities offset losses among energy and telecommunications names. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.11 percent, or 28.09 points, to close at 24,774.30.

Apple, which had tumbled 2.5 percent on Tuesday following a Taiwanese media report about iPhone X sales forecasts, nudged higher by 0.02 percent.

Oil prices, which had run up to a two-and-a-half year high following an attack on a Libyan pipeline, were stable after pulling back on Wednesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate was higher by 0.1 percent at $59.71 a barrel. Brent crude futures was inched higher by 0.03 percent to trade at $66.46.

A rally in copper prices

took a pause, but continued to trade near their highest levels in four years. Three-month copper on the London Metals Exchange was off 0.22 percent at $7,203 per ton following strong import numbers out of China earlier this week.

The base metal is often referred to as “Dr. Copper,” because it frequently provides a good gauge of global economic growth.

The dollar extended losses after slipping overnight. The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against six peers, traded at 92.966 at 10:01 a.m. HK/SIN, compared to levels around the 93 handle seen in the last session.

Against the Japanese yen, the greenback last traded at 113.19.

The move lower in the dollar came as U.S. Treasury yields slipped in the last session. Yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note last stood at 2.42 percent, compared to the 2.47 percent seen on Tuesday.

Commodity-linked currencies were firmer despite the move lower in oil prices in the previous session. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7781 after rising as high as $0.7783 earlier, its highest level in around two months. Privately held Zhejiang Geely Holding Group on

Wednesday announced that it would be acquiring investment firm Cevian Capital’s 8.2 percent stake in Sweden-based truck maker AB Volvo. According to Reuters calculation, the deal is valued around 27.2 billion Swedish crowns ($3.26 billion). Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile Holdings was up 3.88 percent.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi UFJ Group on Wednesday said it was “cautiously optimistic” that regulators would approve its bid to acquire 73.8 percent of Indonesia’s Bank Danamon, Reuters reported. Foreign ownership in Indonesian banks is typically capped at 40 percent.

MUFG shares were down 1.28 percent, underperforming their financial peers. Danamon shares rose 2.19 percent, extending gains from the last session.

Source: CNBC