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Asian shares gain as Dell earnings boost techs

Written by: Staff
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SINGAPORE, Nov 23 (Reuters) Asian stocks rose on Thursday, with an index of shares outside Japan at record levels for a second successive day, as strong earnings from U.S. computer maker Dell boosted shares in technology suppliers.

The dollar was stuck near a 5-{ month low against the euro and 2-month low to the yen, but trading was subdued with holidays in both the United States and Japan.

Gains in Australian stocks were led by Foster's Group Ltd as the brewer became the latest subject of market talk about a possible private equity bid, while in South Korea a stronger won currency weighed on exporters' shares.

''Exporters need to gain for the whole market to go higher, and that will be difficult unless conditions in the forex market become more supportive,'' said Kim Hak-kyun, an analyst at Korea Investment and Securities.

Oil was steady in very thin trade after prices fell in the previous session, when weekly U.S. inventory data showed a surprise rise in crude stockpiles heading into the peak winter demand season.

MSCI's broadest index of Asian shares outside Japan was up 0.5 percent at 0300 GMT, setting a new peak of 379.01.

U.S. technology stocks rose on Wednesday after upbeat earnings from Dell, the world's No.2 PC maker, which pushed the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index up 0.5 percent.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent, just shy of its November 7 record high, with Foster's up 5.5 percent. Seoul's benchmark index was a touch weaker, but car maker Hyundai Motor Co., a major exporter, fell 1.4 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng opened up 0.5 percent at a new peak, after notching a record close on Wednesday as investors sought to gain from China's growth outlook. Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.3 percent, also to an all-time high.

Taiwan's benchmark index rose 0.8 percent, with Asustek Computer Inc., the world's top motherboard maker and a major Dell supplier, up 1.6 percent and PC maker Acer Inc. rising 1.7 percent.

''I'd say you are in a bull market now because trading in the tech sector has increased a lot recently,'' said Kevin Lin, a fund manager at Shin Kong Investment Trust. ''When U.S. tech shares, such as Dell, rise, its good for local tech issues.'' DOLLAR DOWN The dollar was unchanged from late New York levels around 116.70 yen at 0205 GMT, having slid as low as 116.36, its weakest since late September, on Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.2930 from near $1.2945 in late New York trade, below a high of $1.2958 reached earlier on Wednesday.

The U.S. currency took a beating on Wednesday as investors rushed to cut back on risky positions in their portfolios before the holidays, sparking a broad-based sell-off that was exaggerated by relatively thin conditions.

The dollar tumbled more than 1 percent against both the yen and Swiss franc, the lowest yielding of major currencies that many investors have sold as a source of funds to buy higher-yielding currencies in the so-called carry trade.

''While the downleg in the dollar may have caused some excitement given the painfully narrow ranges of late, bear in mind that key levels have yet to be broken, which suggests some caution in the near-term,'' said Sue Trinh, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Sydney, in a client note.

U.S. crude oil inched up 6 cents to $59.30 a barrel in light electronic trade. London Brent crude was 9 cents higher at $59.58 a barrel.

Prices topped $60 this week after a halt in crude shipments at an Alaskan port, but were dragged down 93 cents on Wednesday by a surprise 5.1 million barrel rise in U.S. crude oil inventories as imports increased.

''It was a shock announcement, and that really pushed the market down,'' said Gerard Burg, resource analyst at National Australia Bank.

Oil prices have slid 24 percent since a record high above $78 a barrel in mid-July, as bulging fuel stocks in consumer countries and concerns over slower economic growth spur investor selling, with the market mostly in a $58-$62 range for more than a month.

Gold was steady at $629.10 an ounce.

REUTERS AKJ VV0920

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