Asia shares mostly higher after Wall Street record

HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets mostly rose Monday following a record close on Wall Street that was fuelled by upbeat US data, while Tokyo was boosted by a weaker yen.

Tokyo rose 0.67 per cent, Hong Kong gained 0.39 per cent, Sydney added 0.26 per cent, Shanghai was 0.37 per cent higher while Seoul slipped 0.18 per cent.

The gains added to last week's broad advances that came after a sharp improvement in Chinese manufacturing activity and positive comments about interest rates from the US Federal Reserve.

US shares rallied on Friday after the Commerce Department said new single-family homes were sold at an annual rate of 433,000 units in April, well above analysts' forecast of 415,000.

The news added to a growing sense that the world's biggest economy is well on the recovery track. The S&P 500 advanced 0.42 per cent to 1,900.53, ending above the 1,900 barrier for the first time.

The Dow rose 0.38 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.76 per cent in quiet trade as investors wound down for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Market-watchers will be keeping an eye on the release later in the week of key US data, including gross domestic product growth and housing figures.

On currency markets the dollar benefited from rising confidence in the global economy, making fresh inroads against the yen.

The greenback bought 101.98 yen in the morning, against 101.92 yen in New York and well up from 101.72 yen earlier Friday in Tokyo.

The euro stood at US$1.3617 and 138.85 yen, from US$1.3632 and 138.91 in New York on Friday.

Oil prices edged lower after Ukraine's presidential election passed off without major incident and saw a victory for the pro-Western candidate.

Chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko won outright and immediately vowed to end a bloody pro-Russian uprising that has tipped the country towards civil war.

On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would respect the outcome of the election.

On oil markets, the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in July, fell 26 US cents to US$104.09 per barrel in early Asian trading. Brent North Sea crude for July delivery dropped 24 US cents to US$110.30.

Crude prices have been rising in tandem with the events in Ukraine as the country is a major conduit for Russian oil and gas exports to Europe, and any escalation of the conflict could disrupt supplies and send prices soaring.

Gold fetched US$1,293.88 an ounce at 10.10am Singapore time compared with US$1,291.65 late Friday.