Higher Oil Prices Send Asian Shares Up

In Asia Wednesday Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 1.1% to close at 23,157 and China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.9% to 2,924. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index edged up 0.6% to end the day at 10,808.

Investors brushed aside worries over continuously rising Chinese inflation today, focusing instead on bargain shopping. Energy companies were a major attraction as oil prices surged. The uneasiness in the Middle East, coupled with China's inflation rate, has analysts betting that the price of fuel will go up. And so far, that's certainly reflected in the price at the pump where gasbuddy.com reports that gas costs an average of $3.12 at stations across the U.S., a 53-cent hike from prices seen a year ago. In Europe, where drivers can easily pay a scary $8 or more per gallon, prices are also going up.

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In Hong Kong, shares in oil company Cnooc were snapped up after yesterday's fall in prices, sending the stock up 1.9%. Sinopec rallied 2%. Other energy companies also rose with China Shenhua gaining 1.1% and China Coal up 0.4%.

Insurers fared well with China Life scoring a 2.2% gain, and banks rose as investors searched for bargains after yesterday's declines. HSBC surged 1.6%, Bank of China advanced 1.5% and Bank of Communications climbed 1.3%.

Hong Kong real estate firms performed well with Cheung Kong soaring 2.9%, Henderson Land rising 1.3% and Hang Lung advancing 0.8%, despite fears of further restrictions in the Chinese property market.

BYD was among today's losers, dropping 2.5% after reporting disappointing January sales. Other car companies also retreated with Great Wall Motor sinking 2.4%, Geely losing 1.6% and Dongfeng Motor off 2.1%.

In China steelmakers joined forces to increase steel prices, according to People's Daily. The paper reports that Baoshan Iron & Steel and Wuhan Iron & Steel will institute price hikes, and today shares in both companies closed higher. Baoshan leaped 2.8% and Wuhan jumped 1.6%.

Automotive companies made headway in China after the country's vehicle sales are reported to have soared 40% in 2010, making it a $51.8 billion industry. Today Beiqi Foton Motor zipped up 4.3% and FAW Car Co. rose 1.6%.

Real estate firms suffered losses thanks to uncertainty over bank interest rates. Poly Real Estate slid 1.2%, and Gemdale dipped 0.4%. But Bloomberg reports that China Vanke, which lost 0.6% today, isn't too worried, having scored a record $3 billion in January revenue -- a three-fold increase in month-on-month figures.

In Japan positive predictions about the state of the nation's economy from analysts at Nomura boosted shares in financials. Resona Holdings rallied 5.4%, Sumitomo Mitsui surged 2.3% and Mizuho Financial Group advanced 1.8%.

Today's lower yen was a boon to Japanese exporters and helped game-making firms push ahead. Nintendo, of Wii fame, rocketed up 4.3% and Sony, the maker of the PS3 shot up 2.6%. Arcade game producer Konami edged up 0.5%. Among camera makers, Konica Minolta headed up 2.4%, Olympus added 1% and Canon advanced 0.8% while other electronics makers also surged. Pioneer rose 3.1% and Sharp gained 2.9%.