HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Asian stocks consolidated a recent run of gains on Wednesday (Aug 24), helped by Wall Street's rise overnight, even as oil prices slid on trade data showing a surprise build-up in US crude stocks.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.1 per cent in early trades. It has risen more than 14 per cent since late June to hit a 1-year high last week.
Futures prices showed Australian shares were poised to edge higher on Wednesday while New Zealand stocks slipped after a recent rally.
US housing-related stocks jumped 2 per cent after the Commerce Department reported new US single-family home sales soared unexpectedly in July to near nine-year highs.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.88 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 18,547.3, the S&P 500 gained 4.26 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,186.9 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.48 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,260.08.
The upbeat housing data prompted markets to extend their search for further clues to whether the Federal Reserve will raise US interest rates this year. Global central bankers gather in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this week with investors focused on a speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Friday.
The spike in new US home sales pushed the dollar to 94.6 against a trade-weighted basket of currencies after a drop of more than 2 per cent so far this month.
The Australian dollar looked set to add to recent gains as Australia's relatively higher interest rates attracted overseas investors.
Oil prices tumbled on Wednesday, reversing early gains, after the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported US crude on Tuesday that inventories rose by a surprising 4.5 million barrels last week.
Brent crude fell 0.6 per cent to US$49.65 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude slipped 0.85 per cent to US$47.68 in early deals.