Asian markets boosted by oil price rally

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Most Asian markets rose after US crude prices climbed for a fourth straight day, raising hopes the slump in oil prices could be nearing an end.

Brent crude rose nearly 6% in New York trading to settle at $57.91 per barrel, its highest level this year.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 2% to 17,678.74 and the broader Topix gained 1.8% to close at 1,417 points on Wednesday.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed 1.2% higher at 5,777.34 due to a jump in energy and mining shares.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.55% to close at 1,962.79.

However, some analysts warned that the oil rally did not "spell an all-clear".

"Oil prices have shown unusually sharp swings over the last few months, which are typical of markets trying to find a new equilibrium," Chang Weiliang from Mizuho wrote in a report.

"For one, US shale producers remain a game-changer, with their flexibility to add or cut operating oil rigs likely to keep the longer-term volatility of oil under wraps."

Trading update

In China, stocks fell after data showing the mainland's services sector grew at its slowest pace in six months in January.

China's purchasing managers' index for the services sector slowed to 51.8 last month from 53.4 in December, according to a private survey by HSBC. A level above 50 indicates expansion.

The Shanghai Composite closed down 1% at 3,174.13.

But in Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.5% to finish at 24,679.76 - following the uptrend in the rest of the region.

Taiwan's stock exchange also announced it was widening the daily stock trading limit to 10% from 7% starting from 3 August.

The country's Financial Supervisory Commission said the changes were aimed at attracting more investors and market liquidity.

The benchmark Taiex Index rose 0.7% on Wednesday.