Asia markets mostly higher despite hawkish Fed comments; Nikkei up 0.3%, ASX up 0.7% – CNBC

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That sent the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, up to tap highs not seen since late March, before trimming gains on Thursday. The dollar index was at 95.233 at 3:21 p.m. SIN/HK, after climbing as high as 95.502 Wednesday.

In Asia trade, U.S. crude oil futures for June delivery rose 0.77 percent to $48.53 a barrel by 3:21 p.m. SIN/HK after settling nearly flat. Brent was up 0.68 percent at $49.14 a barrel. Recent concerns about supply disruptions in Canada, Libya, Nigeria and Venezuela have helped to bolster oil prices to around levels not seen since late last year.

Among energy plays, Australia-listed Woodside added 0.33 percent and Santos rose 2.60 percent. In Japan, Inpex added 0.49 percent.

Airline shares around the region were mixed in the wake of disappearance of EgyptAir flight MS804 in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as an increase in oil prices, which are denominated in U.S. dollars.

Jonathan Galaviz, senior airline industry analyst at Global Market Advisors, said in a note Thursday that the apparent crash of MS804 would be a short-term financial negative for airlines with exposure to the Middle East, particularly European and Gulf state carriers.

Air New Zealand shed 2.24 percent and Virgin Australia fell 1.75 percent; both are exposed to weaker home currencies. Japan Airlines also fell 1.20 percent. But Singapore Airlines, which has faced tough competition from the Gulf carriers, added 0.47 percent by 3:22 p.m. SIN/HK, and Cathay Pacific, which may get insulation from rising oil prices as its home currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is pegged to the greenback, rose 2.36 percent by 3:22 p.m. SIN/HK.

Gold shares were mixed after the price of gold fell as low as $1,244.60 an ounce in the U.S. session Thursday. Spot gold was essentially flat at $1,254.20 an ounce at 3:23 p.m. SIN/HK.

A stronger dollar weighs on the price of gold, in part because it lessens the yellow metal’s attractiveness as a potential hedge against inflation.

But Julius Baer’s Matthews noted that on the charts, the gold price is near its 50-day moving average and could have a bullish bounce from here.

Australia-listed Alacer Gold tacked on 4.28 percent and Newcrest rose 1.17 percent, erasing earlier losses. China gold plays were mixed, with Jiangxi Copper, which also mines the yellow metal, seeing its Hong Kong-listed shares fall 0.35 percent by 3:24 p.m. SIN/HK, while its mainland-listed ones ended up 0.39 percent. The Hong Kong-listed shares of gold miner Zijin Mining fell 0.84 percent by 3:24 p.m. SIN/HK.

Shares of Hong Kong’s Li & Fung added 0.47 percent by 3:24 p.m. SIN/HK after shares of its major customer, Wal-Mart, surged more than 9 percent overnight on better-than-expected quarterly results.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 91.22 points, or 0.52 percent, at 17,435.40, the S&P 500 closed down 7.59 points, or 0.37 percent, at 2,040.04 and the Nasdaq composite closed down 26.59 points, or 0.56 percent, at 4,712.53.

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—By CNBC.Com’s Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1

Asia markets mostly higher despite hawkish Fed comments; Nikkei up 0.3%, ASX up 0.7% – CNBC}