Asian shares gain as markets await details from China meeting

HONG KONG - Asian shares were mostly higher on Tuesday amid a lack of trading cues, as markets awaited the outcome of a major political meeting on economic reforms in China.

Tokyo closed up 2.23 per cent, with the Nikkei 225 index gaining 318.84 points to 14,588.68 as a weaker yen buoyed exporters.

Seoul rose 0.92 per cent, with a rally in Samsung shares helping lift the KOSPI 18.18 points to close at 1,995.48.

Shanghai shares closed up 0.82 per cent on Tuesday ahead of an expected official announcement about the meeting of China's ruling Communist Party, due to end Tuesday after four days.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 17.30 points to 2,126.77.

"The market is still focusing on the Third Plenum," Zheshang Securities analyst Zhang Yanbing told Dow Jones Newswires, referring to the meeting.

"Investors are chasing stocks that are most likely to get policy catalysts," he added, identifying healthcare and insurance providers as among favoured companies.

Hong Kong stocks closed 0.73 per cent lower, with many investors staying on the sidelines before the end of the policy meeting. The benchmark Hang Seng Index ended down 168.44 points at 22,901.41.

Manila closed up 0.94 per cent following recent losses as the Philippines reels from super typhoon Haiyan, with well over 10,000 people feared dead and the magnitude of the disaster continuing to build.

In Japan, Shinkin Asset Management fund manager Naoki Fujiwara said the weaker yen remained the dominant trading cue as it boosted exporters' earnings.

"There is very little (other) news or data to trade on, with earnings releases thus far having been unexciting, or even disappointing with few impressive upward forecast revisions," he said.

Sydney finished 0.11 per cent higher, adding 6.0 points to 5,393.1.

But analysts said the Australian dollar was hit by a downbeat monthly business survey from National Australia Bank, which showed that confidence fell to a score of +5 points in October from +12 a month earlier.

The unit fell to 93.29 US cents from 93.80 cents Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 21.32 points (0.14 per cent) Monday to 15,783.10, hitting a second consecutive record high, in thin trade because of the Veterans Day holiday.

In Asian currency trade, the dollar climbed to 99.74 yen, up from 99.20 yen in New York Monday, on expectations that the Federal Reserve could start tapering off its $85 billion a month asset purchase programme next month or in January.

The Fed has said any drawdown -- seen as a plus for the dollar -- hinges on signs of a firm recovery. There was more evidence last week that the US economy is on the right track with positive jobs numbers and better than expected growth data.

"More and more market players expect the Fed to start tapering the programme by the end of the year," Daisuke Karakama, market economist at Mizuho Bank, told AFP.

The euro was at $1.3381 against $1.3407 and at 133.47 yen from 133.01.

Oil prices edged lower in Asian trade Tuesday as dealers await fresh developments in the bid by world powers to reach a landmark deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for December delivery, was down 28 cents to $94.86 a barrel in afternoon Asian trade. Brent North Sea crude for December fell 23 cents to $106.17.

Gold was under pressure at $1,280.60 per ounce compared with $1,285.27 on Monday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei closed 0.16 per cent, or 12.70 points, higher at 8,195.26.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was 0.48 per cent higher at Tw$105.0.

-- Wellington ended down 0.13 per cent, or 6.50 points, at 4,915.67.

Chorus slipped 2.19 per cent to NZ$2.01, Fletcher Building fell 0.32 per cent to NZ$9.45 and Telecom Corp added 0.65 per cent to NZ$2.335.