Asian Oil Stocks Head North on Cnooc's Heady Earnings

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.4% to close at 22,915 on Thursday. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index dipped 0.2% to 9,435 and in China the Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.1% to end the day at 2,947.

Shares in Cnooc, China's most visible offshore oil producer, surged after the company announced record-high net profits for 2010. According to a statement released by the company, growth hit 84.5% as compared with last year, and sales of oil and gas were up 77.7%. The firm has launched nine new projects that are now producing, boosting total production for the year to 328.8 million barrels -- an all-time high for Cnooc.

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Investors took heart in the glowing results, sending Cnooc shares up 1.8%. Other oil companies also rose, with Sinopec gaining 1.2% and PetroChina up 0.4%. Shares in coal-based energy firms were mixed with China Coal slumping 1.9% and China Shenhua adding 0.3%.

Mining stocks followed the London Metal Exchange higher after it gained 2.3% by the close of trading in London yesterday. Aluminum Corp. of China ramped up 2.2%, Jiangxi Copper advanced 1.5%. Gold mining companies got a boost after the price of the precious metal hit $1,441.16 today, nearing its recent record of $1,444.94. Zhaojin Mining Industry climbed 2.1%, Real Gold Mining edged up 1.1% and Zijin Mining gained 1%.

Internet firms made headway with Tencent surging 2.9% and China Unicom rising 2.6%. Both firms serve the Chinese market, with Tencent boasting one of hottest trends in communications services and online gaming. Its QQ instant messaging had 647.6 million active users by the end of 2010, according to Bloomberg, and has been up and running for 12 years. Not only does it provide free instant messaging, but also gives users access to a smorgasbord of addictive games ranging from QQ PET, where users care for virtual pets to QQ San Guo or Three Kingdoms, where payers take on the character of historical heroes.

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Owner Suspends Dividend

In Japan, beleaguered Tokyo Electric Power, owner of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, sank 14% after dividend payments have been suspended. There was general gloom among other utilities as well with Tohoku Electric Power tumbling 5% and Chubu Electric Power losing 1.7%

Japanese car makers headed south on news that components and raw materials needed to produce vehicles were becoming hard to come by. Nissan slid 4.6%, Mazda slumped 3.7%, Subaru maker Fuji Heavy slumped 3.3%, Isuzu and Toyota were both down 2.7% and Honda slid 2.6%.

Meanwhile Japanese metal companies rose with Nisshin Steel climbing 5.9%, Nippon Light Metal rising 5.5% and Sumitomo Metal Mining advancing 4.7%.

In China, heavy losses among coal miners and banks weighed the market down. Yanzhou Mining sank 1.7%, Guizhou Panjiang Refined Coal shed 1.6% and China Shenhua Energy fell 1%. Among banks, China Merchants lost 0.4% and Bank of Communications inched down 0.2%.

Chinese gold miners countered declines with Shandong Gold Mining gaining 0.8% and Zhongjin Gold adding 0.3%. But gains didn't outpace losses on Shanghai's big board.
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