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Asia300

Asian stocks pull higher after U.S. markets extend rebound

Mainland Chinese, South Korean shares climb on last trading day of the year

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan rose Friday after U.S. equities staged a strong comeback in late trading overnight, with mainland Chinese and South Korean companies edging higher to trim losses in a downbeat year.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of some of the region's most influential companies added 0.7% to 1,200.38. For the week, the gauge ended down 0.2%. China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.4% during the session amid hopes for policy measures next year to support economic growth, narrowing its losses for the year to under 25%. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.6% on Friday, paring its decline in 2018 to 17.3%. Both the markets are among those closed on Monday for New Year's eve.

Markets were aided by the performance on Wall Street, where major equity indexes reversed intraday losses in the final 90 minutes of trade to end higher on Thursday, building on their rebound the previous day.

Although stocks in the region began 2018 on an upbeat note, they lost momentum as the year progressed because of the Sino-American trade war, interest rate increases by the U.S. Federal Reserve, and worries about a slowdown in growth.

While companies in the region with international ratings are forecast to have a stable outlook next year, downside risks are increasing, Fitch Ratings said in a statement on Friday.

"Key risks focus on China, where home sales volumes are falling, domestic credit growth continues to decline despite central bank easing during the second half of 2018, and the U.S.-China trade war could begin to take a toll on manufacturers in 2019," the ratings agency said.

Liquid-crystal displays maker TCL gained 1.2% and Chongqing Changan Automobile added 1.7% in Shenzhen on Friday, while Samsung Electronics advanced 1.2% and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing rose 1.1% in Taipei.

PTT climbed 1.1% in Bangkok, CNOOC rose 1.9% in Hong Kong, and Oil & Natural Gas added 0.8% in Mumbai as U.S. crude oil futures climbed more than 2% in Asian trading.

China Petroleum & Chemical, or Sinopec, was an exception. It tumbled 5.1% in Hong Kong after informing the stock exchange that two top officials at its trading arm Unipec had been suspended as the unit incurred "some losses" on crude transactions because of the oil price drop. Analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a report that the "surprising" trading loss from Unipec, although difficult to quantify, was likely a one-off event.

Great Wall Motor climbed 2% in Hong Kong after saying that it has entered an agreement with Honeycomb Energy to dispose 123 patented and non-patented technology assets for 164.12 million yuan ($23.9 million).

New World Development slid 1.3% after its Hong Kong-listed subsidiary NWS Holdings said a unit had agreed to buy FTLife Insurance for HK$21.5 billion ($2.75 billion) from a unit of China-based Tongchuangjiuding Investment Management Group. NWS shares fell 3.6%.

-- V. Phani Kumar

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