Most of Asia Gains as Copper Soars

Asian markets closed mostly higher on Thursday following a rally in oil and copper prices this week. Trade was thin ahead of the long New Year's weekend.

The Nikkei 225 gave back 127.23 points, or 0.6%, to 22783.98, as the U.S. dollar lost ground against the yen. Most energy stocks that had run up in the previous session gave up some of those gains to finish lower. Banks, automakers and most tech firms also closed lower.

Those moves came despite official data earlier in the morning showing retail sales and industrial output for November had both topped median projections.

Against the Japanese yen, the U.S. dollar softened to trade at 112.72.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi UFJ Group on Wednesday said it was "cautiously optimistic" that regulators would approve its bid to acquire 73.8% of Indonesia's Bank Danamon. Foreign ownership in Indonesian banks is typically capped at 40%.

The Hang Seng Index powered ahead 266.05 points, or 0.9%, to 29,863.71, while mainland markets pared losses seen on Wednesday.

Privately held Zhejiang Geely Holding Group on Wednesday announced that it would be acquiring investment firm Cevian Capital's 8.2% stake in Sweden-based truck maker AB Volvo. The deal is valued around 27.2 billion Swedish crowns ($3.26 billion U.S.). Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile Holdings was up 2.9% late in the trading day.

Gains by Korean markets outpaced other indexes in the region. The move higher had been driven by gains in blue-chip tech names, although retailers also climbed higher, with Lotte Himart closing up 4.4%

Samsung Electronics finished the session higher by 3.2%, shrugging off headlines on Wednesday that prosecutors were looking for a 12-year prison sentence for Jay Y. Lee. The Samsung Electronics vice chairman is appealing a five-year sentence linked to a corruption case.

Australian markets also bested breakeven, with gains seen in the resources space and telecommunications sectors. Utilities and industrials finished the session slightly lower.

The Australian dollar traded at $0.7803 U.S., its highest level in around two months.

A rally in copper continued, with the metal trading near its highest levels in four years. Three-month copper on the London Metals Exchange rose 1.1% at $7,299 U.S. per tonne following strong import numbers out of China earlier this week.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 picked up 27.69 points, or 0.7%, to 4,018.90. The move higher had been driven by gains in the consumer, materials and energy sectors.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index grew 30.82 points, or 1.3%, to 2,467.49

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index popped 80.97 points, or 0.8%, to 10,567.64

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index added 7.43 points, or 0.2%, to 3,399.10

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 recovered 32.1 points, or 0.4%, to 8,408.53

In Australia, the ASX 200 gained 18.27 points, or 0.3%, to 6,088.14