Asian shares seen higher on positive US lead

Asian equities appear set to kick off Wednesday on a positive note, tracking gains in the U.S. overnight, but shares may face volatility as oil prices continue to retreat.

Australia’s key S&P ASX 200 index jumped nearly 1 percent in early trade, while the Australian dollar (Exchange:USDAUD=) ticked down 0.1 percent to buy $ 0.8160 to the dollar. Gold producers led gains, with Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN-AU) surging 8.7 percent and Beadell (ASX:BDR-AU)Resources (ASX:BDR-AU) opening up 5.6 percent.BHP Billiton (London Stock Exchange: BLT-GB) rose nearly 2 percent, after the world’s biggest miner announced that it would cut its shale drilling spending over the next six months as it looks to meet its promise not to cut dividends in the face of a collapse in iron ore, copper and oil prices.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index could see a subdued open. While Chicago futures climbed 1.8 percent to 17,440, those in Osaka slipped 0.4 percent to reach 17,320; those indices bracketed the Nikkei’s previous close of 17,366. Overnight, U.S. stocks ended higher after wavering between positive and negative during the session, as investors tracked the price of oil and fourth-quarter earnings from corporations including Johnson & Johnson. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) fell as much as 164 points, and bounced back to close flat. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) added 0.2 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC) settled 0.4 percent higher.

Oil declined about 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast on lower fuel demand and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $ 25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action. U.S. crude finished 4.7 percent lower at $ 46.39 a barrel, near its intraday bottom of $ 46.23. Brent crude dropped 70 cents to $ 48 a barrel.

Asia’s calendar The Bank of Japan will announce its monetary decision on Wednesday after a two-day policy board meeting.

“Although we are not expecting anything out of the ordinary today, it will be interesting to see if energy prices are raining on their inflation goals, along with the consumption tax introduced in April last year,” Evan Lucas, IG’s market strategist, said. “Further downside in the inflation rate will force the BOJ to rethink its position once again.” Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum in Davos kicks off today with the spotlight firmly on the European Central Bank and the weakness in the euro zone economy. Speaking overnight, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warned that the European economy is on the “brink of deflating” and urgently needs more stimulus, particularly from Germany.

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