Asian shares advance after Wall Street rally; eyes on China

Traders are awaiting the release of Chinese GDP figures later Thursday.

Shares on Wall Street took a breather after the strongest performance of the year for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the benchmark S&P 500 saw the indexes close above 26,000 and 2,800, respectively, for the first time on Wednesday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 32,121.94 while the Shanghai Composite jumped 0.9 percent to 3,474.75.

European shares closed modestly higher, led by a rise in cyclical stocks. The Dow surged 1.3 percent to 26,115.65.

CHINA FACTOR: China's economy expanded at a 6.9 percent pace in 2017, faster than expected and the first annual increase in seven years, according to government data.

Insurers and banking stocks lost ground, with Dai-ichi Life Holdings and T&D Holdings both declining 1.3 per cent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group shed 0.9 per cent and Mizuho Financial Group fell 1.8 per cent. "A packed data day nevertheless lies ahead with much of the attention set on the release of China's Q4 GDP later in the day", Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a commentary.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude fell 8 cents to $63.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price worldwide oils, fell 18 cents to $69.20 a barrel.

USA crude CLcv1 settled at $63.95 per barrel, down 2 cents, and Brent LCOcv1 settled at $69.31, down 7 cents.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.24 yen from 110.77 yen late Wednesday in Asia.

The trade-weighted dollar index =USD was last down 0.45 percent with the euro EUR= up 0.45 percent to $1.2239.

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