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Asian shares mostly higher, but lower oil caps advances

Asian shares were higher across the board early Monday, shrugging off a negative lead from Wall Street, but lower oil prices capped advances.

US stocks finished last week on the back foot as a week of mixed economic data, renewed US dollar strength and sharply lower oil prices made traders cautious ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve meeting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.8 percent, while the S&P 500 finished 0.6 percent lower. The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 0.4 percent.

Nikkei adds 0.3 percent

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index scaled a new 15-year high of 19,349, but pulled back slightly by mid-morning. Industrial robot maker Fanuc extended last week’s rally with a rise of 0.4 percent, while other index heavyweights such as Fast Retailing bounced up 1 percent.

This helped to offset a slight retreat in dollar-yen, which led to a mixed picture among exporters. While Sharp and Sony lost 2.1 and 3.6 percent each, Nintendo and Nikon advanced 3.1 and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan commences its two-day monthly meeting on Monday.

Shanghai Comp up 0.9 percent

China’s Shanghai Composite notched up in early trade as markets digested comments by Premier Li Keqiang over the weekend. At the conclusion of the annual parliamentary session, the Chinese Premier sounded a warning on the economy and said that achieving the year’s 7 percent growth target could be challenging.

Among top gainers were Kangmei Pharmaceutical and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical, which climbed more than 2 percent each. Blue-chip property stocks were also higher; Poly Real Estate and China Merchants Property gained 1.4 and 1.1 percent, respectively.

ASX falls 0.2 percent

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 index trimmed losses in mid-morning trade as financials turned positive, offsetting losses from the resources sector.

Oil-related majors were stung by declining oil prices. Oil Search slumped 3.8 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos tanked more than 2 percent each.

The mining space, meanwhile, saw a mixed picture as iron ore dropped to $ 57.66 a tonne overnight. BHP Billiton eased 0.8 percent, while Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto rose 2 and 0.2 percent, respectively. Copper miner Sandfire Resources retreated 1.8 percent after OZ Minerals offloaded its 19 percent stake in the miner last Friday.

Kospi flat

South Korea’s Kospi index remained little moved, while the won stayed near a 20-month low of 1,134 against the greenback.

Among index heavyweights, Hyundai Motor and Samsung Electronics notched up 2 and 1.2 percent each. But losses among the energy sector capped advances; S-Oil lost 3.9 percent and SK Innovation dropped 4.1 percent.

The week in Asia begins with India’s wholesale price index (WPI) for February, which is seen falling to “nonexistent” levels as falling fuel and power costs offset higher food inflation, noted Moody’s Analytics. This leaves room for the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates once again to encourage investment and stimulate growth.

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