Egyptian Unrest Sends Oil Prices and Asian Markets Higher

Shares rose in Asia Tuesday. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index inched up 0.2% to 23,483 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3% to close at 2,799. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged up 0.4% to end the day at 10,275.

As Cairo braces for today's "Million Strong March," Egypt's infrastructure and economy have just about ground to a halt. At the moment, this is horrendous news in terms of food deliveries, local businesses and canceled flights, but it could soon affect transportation routes through the Suez Canal, interfering with the world's oil supply. Overnight the price of oil passed the $100 a barrel mark -- a level not seen in over two years. And today, investors are piling in, sending shares in oil companies soaring.

In Hong Kong, PetroChina surged 3.8% and Cnooc, an oil and gas producer, jumped 3.4%. Cnooc has the added advantage of its new foothold in U.S. oilfields -- yesterday the company signed a deal entitling it to drill for oil in Colorado and Wyoming.

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A rise in metals prices benefited some mining firms, with Aluminum Corp. of China rising 1.1%. But despite a slight rise in the price of gold on the London Metals Exchange, Hong Kong-listed gold miners fared less well, with Zijin Mining losing 1.6% and Zhaojin Mining falling 1.1%. Real Gold, however, managed a 0.8% gain.

In China Jiangxi Copper advanced 1.5%, but other commodity producers drifted lower. Maanshan Iron & Steel slumped 1.6%, Baoshan Iron & Steel lost 0.7% and Shandong Gold slipped 0.1%.

Oil companies also gained in China where Chinese-listed shares in PetroChina climbed 2.3%.

Other winners in China included businesses expected to flourish during the two-week Chinese New Year celebrations. Liquor company Kweichow Moutai spiked 1.3% and Wuliangye Yibin rose 0.6%. Some appliance sellers also got a boost, with air conditioner expert Qingdao Haier surging 4.1%.

In Japan, markets headed slightly higher, taking their cue from the U.S., where data showed consumers are beginning to spend more, rather than focusing on their own falling incomes. According to Bloomberg, Japanese take-home wages slid 0.4% in December, compared with numbers from a year earlier.

But a rise in U.S. spending was good news for car makers with Honda lifting its earnings forecast, sending shares up 2%. Isuzu motored up 3.1% and Nissan rose 0.8%. Toyota, however, gave up 0.9% while bus and truck maker Hino Motors plunged 4.8%.

Other big gainers included heavy-duty transportation and industrial machinery companies. Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a maker of submarine engines, military machinery and jet engines spiked 5.1% and Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes aircraft parts for Boeing as well as Subaru 4-wheel drive cars for the layman, jumped 1.7%.

The love didn't carry over to car parts manufacturers. Alps Electric, a maker of electronic systems for vehicles, dived 4.7% and Bridgestone lost 0.8%, but electronics exporters climbed higher with Hitachi rocketing up 3.4%, Sanyo advancing 0.8% and Casio Computer up 0.7%.