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Equities

Nikkei Asia300 Index advances as Chinese insurers rally

Ping An Insurance, China Life gain but airline stocks decline

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan rose Tuesday, paced by mainland insurers and lenders.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index rose 1.1% to 1,491.87. Ping An Insurance Group advanced 2.8% after the Chinese insurer said accumulated gross premium income of its life insurance business increased 33.4% last year. China Life Insurance climbed 2%. China Construction Bank and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China advanced 3.5% or more. China's central bank earlier in the day raised interest rates by 5 basis points on 63-day reverse repos, following a similar increase in other tenors last month.

The rally on the Chinese lenders and insurers lifted Hong Kong's benchmark index 1.8% to record closing highs.

With U.S. markets closed overnight, the weakness in the dollar was the main talking point in Asia. The dollar index dropped for the fourth day overnight to fresh three-year lows, taking its losses this month to more than 1.5%. The greenback has weakened as the euro and yen rallied amid bets that the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan will cut back on their bond purchases later this year. The potential reduction in asset purchases by the two major central banks could pose a challenge for the current rally in risk assets.

China's third-largest oil company CNOOC advanced 1.8%, leading energy shares higher after Brent crude prices closed above the $70 per barrel mark for the first time in three-years.

Guangzhou Automobile Group advanced 1.3% after the Chinese carmaker said it expects net profit for 2017 to increase by 55% to 85% from a year earlier.

Chinese airlines declined despite reporting an increase in passenger traffic for December, probably weighed by rising crude prices. Air China dropped 2.5% despite carrying 8% more passengers last month from a year earlier. China Eastern Airlines shed 2.5%, and China Southern Airlines lost 3.3%.

Singapore Airlines lost 0.2%. The carrier said late Monday that passenger load factor rose to 84.7% last month but reiterated that operating landscape was challenging.

In country indexes compiled by Nikkei, China jumped 2.3% and Hong Kong added 1.2%. Taiwan rose 0.5% while South Korea gained 1.3%. India fell 0.2%.

The Nikkei Asia300 ASEAN Index of Southeast Asian companies rose 0.6%.

--Nimesh Vora

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