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Written by: Staff
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SINGAPORE, May 3 (Reuters) Asian shares rose on Wednesday after buoyant oil prices boosted major energy shares, pushing U.S. stocks to their highest close in more than six years.

Gold hit another 25-year high on persistent fund buying driven by a weak dollar and as crude oil prices hovered just below $75 a barrel, within sight of record highs.

Financial markets in Japan were closed for the Golden Week holiday period, but other Asian stock markets gained, led by South Korea and Hong Kong.

South Korea's benchmark KOSPI share index was up more than 1 percent and within striking distance of an all-time peak as financial stocks such as Kookmin Bank reached record highs after solid first-quarter results.

Shares of Hyundai Motor Co. recovered from three days of fall on data showing stronger U.S. sales.

''The earnings at banks have been good so far, so it's a sector with good momentum. It's not only banks, but there's also optimism about brokerages. The financial sector as a whole is looking very attractive,'' said Park Suk-hyun, an analyst at Kyobo Securities.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 0.64 percent. The index is now less than 3 percent below its all-time high of 11,750.28. The Nasdaq Composite Index ended up 0.22 percent.

In Singapore, shares of Creative Technologies fell as much as 2.5 percent after the company posted a third-quarter loss.

Creative's Nomad and Zen MP3 players compete with Apple's popular iPod.

Singapore Strait Times index was up nearly 1 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was trading 1 percent higher after gains on Wall Street and as investors snapped up market laggard HSBC Holdings Plc., which was up almost 1.7 percent.

AUSTRALIA HIKES RATES Australian shares were flat after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised the cash rate by 25 basis points to 5.75 percent to stem inflation.

Banking shares, led by National Australia Bank, fell after the rate hike but the Australian dollar surged to a seven-and-a-half month high.

''Clearly they are seeing inflationary risks coming through, and they feel obliged to ensure that inflationary pressures don't build further some time down the track,'' said Stephen Koukoulas, head of research at TD Securities.

''Global conditions are strong, domestic expenditure is picking up,'' he added.

U.S. crude futures were within sight of record highs, rising for a fourth day on tensions over Iran's nuclear programme and speculative fund buying.

NYMEX crude for June delivery was trading up 19 cents at $74.80 a barrel in ACCESS electronic trading by 0227 GMT, extending Tuesday's 91 cent gain, but below a record $75.35 a barrel touched more than a week ago.

Spot gold rose as high as $668.40 an ounce before retreating to $668.30/669.30, still up from $666.20/667.20 late in New York on Tuesday.

Gold has gained around 29 percent this year as investors diversified into precious metals on global tensions, rising energy costs and uncertainty over the dollar's outlook.

The U.S. dollar inched down, hovering near recent lows against the euro and the yen, having failed to extend gains on renewed speculation about further U.S. interest rate rises.

The euro was slightly firmer at $1.2631. Against the yen the dollar was a tad softer at 113.17, after finding some support around 113.13 yen in New York. But it was uncomfortably close to recent seven-month lows around 112.35.

REUTERS CS VP0924

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