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Nikkei Asia300 index advances as energy producers, insurers gain

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan rose Tuesday, as gains in crude oil prices prompted an advance in energy stocks and as earnings optimism boosted Chinese insurers. 

The Nikkei Asia300 Index advanced 0.4% to 1,297.71. H-shares of Ping An Insurance Group climbed 4% and China Life Insurance rose 3.6%. Bank of China paced a rally among Chinese banks, advancing 1.8% in Hong Kong. South Korea's SK Innovation added 1.7% after benchmark U.S. crude oil climbed past $50 per barrel for first time since May.

Mainland insurers have seen a rally this year, underpinned by a healthy insurance premium growth and rising China bond yields that have helped boost earnings outlook.

"The near-term momentum for China insurers remains strong and the longer-term growth potential is healthy," said Daniel So, a strategist at Hong Kong-based CMB International Securities. "The industry growth remains strong and the rising interest rate environment point to a good earnings outlook."

Nikkei's country index for China climbed 0.8%. Data released earlier Tuesday showed that Caixin manufacturing PMI rose to a 4-month high last month of 51.1 from 50.4 in June, topping estimates.

PetroChina and China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec) added 1% each in Hong Kong, and CNOOC advanced 0.3% after Morgan Stanley raised the energy producers' price targets by at least 2%, saying downstream earnings are still more resilient than upstream. It also raised PetroChina's rating.

"With the 1H17 profit alert announced, we believe the weak 2Q17 has already been factored into PetroChina's share price," Morgan Stanley said, adding that Sinopec remains its top pick because of stronger earnings power.

The Nikkei index of Hong Kong rose 0.6%. AIA Group gained 0.7%, joining a broader rally in insurers. Galaxy Entertainment Group, up over 40% this year, slipped 1.3%. Macau monthly casino revenues rose at the quickest pace this year, climbing 29% in July. 

Nikkei's Taiwan index rose 0.1% and that of South Korea advanced 0.9%.

Taiwan's MediaTek jumped 10% after saying that it expects to post a sequential rise of 2% to 10% for third-quarter revenues and sees gross margins ranging from 34% to 37%. For the second quarter, the world's second-largest mobile phone chip provider by revenue reported a 67% slump in net income.

South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries climbed 4.6% even as its second-quarter net profit fell 49%.

Nikkei's India index added 0.2%. The country's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India rose 2% after reporting a 22% increase in car sales for July. Tata Motors added 0.5% after a 13% growth in July sales. Godrej Consumer Products slumped 7%, a day after it reported an unexpected decline in net profit for the June quarter.  

In Southeast Asia country indices, Singapore added 0.4%, as banking stocks recovered from losses in the previous two sessions. Malaysia edged higher by 0.2%, while Indonesia fell 0.1%. The Philippines' index lost 1.6% while the gauge for Vietnam was unchanged. Thailand ended down 0.4%.

Singapore Telecommunications declined 2.8% after adjusting for the final dividend pay-out. The company had declared a final dividend of 10.7 Singapore cents per share for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2017.

In economic data, Indonesia's headline inflation eased more-than-forecast, coming in at 3.88% in July as compared with 4.37% in the previous month. Thailand's inflation moved to positive territory last month, with a reading of 0.17% as against -0.05% in June. 

--Nimesh Vora and V. Phani Kumar 

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