By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian stocks rose on Thursday, with energy shares leading the way as crude oil prices bolted higher after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (MIAPJ0000PUS) advanced 0.6 percent, while Japan's Nikkei (N225) climbed 0.3 percent. South Korea's KOSPI (KS11) rose 0.5 percent and Shanghai (SSEC) was 0.2 percent higher.
Brent crude futures (LCOc1) rose 0.8 percent to $77.82 a barrel, the highest since November 2014 and building on gains of about 3 percent on Wednesday. U.S. light crude futures (CLc1) were up 0.6 percent at $71.69.[O/R]
Energy shares soared as crude oil prices reached 3-1/2-year highs, with investors betting the U.S. withdrawal from a nuclear agreement with Iran would increase tensions in the Middle East and curtail oil supply.
Rising oil prices in turn pushed up U.S. Treasury yields by fanning inflation concerns. The 10-year Treasury note yield rose to a two-week high above the 3 percent threshold before pulling back to 2.982 percent (US10YT=RR).
The New Zealand dollar retreated to a five-month low of $0.6915 <nzd=d4>after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) wrongfooted hawks. It kept interest rates steady as expected, but said its next move might be a cut or a hike.</nzd=d4>
"The RBNZ surprised markets with a slight dovish shift," said Imre Speizer, an economist at Westpac.
The euro crawled back to $1.1871 (EUR=) after slipping overnight to $1.1823, its lowest since late December. The dollar was steady at 109.690 yen <jpy=>after brushing an eight-day peak of 109.930.</jpy=>
MALAYSIAN VOTE UPSET REVERBERATES
Investors in emerging markets, already facing financial uncertainty in countries such as Argentina and Turkey, received another jolt after a stunning election upset in Malaysia.
Moody's ratings agency said the country was now in uncharted territory after an alliance of opposition parties led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad shocked the ruling coalition.
Over the past day the Malaysian ringgit slid nearly 3 percent in the one-month non-deliverable forward market and the cost to insure against the country's debt default has risen.
"The surprise win by Mahathir's coalition party is likely to see an increase in policy uncertainty at least in the short term with market volatility likely to be higher," said Sian Fenner, lead Asian economist at Oxford Economics.
Special public holidays were declared for Thursday and Friday following the elections. But, highlighting investor worries, the U.S.-traded iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF (EWM) plunged 6 percent overnight to a one-year low.
"Malaysian markets are expected to eventually regain some calm as Mahathir's win may not spell a dramatic policy departure from those under (incumbent prime minister) Najib," said Kota Hirayama, senior emerging markets economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
"Malaysia still enjoys a current account surplus and this could help cushion any fiscal spending policies Mahathir could pursue. That said, the opposition parties that won is a loose coalition and it remains to be seen if they can retain a united front."