Asian stocks mostly higher after upbeat US retail sales, oil price continues decline

Asian shares mostly climbed Friday as investor sentiment was lifted by strong U.S. retail sales. But the price of oil extended its fall below $60 per barrel, keeping buying appetite in check and erasing gains in some markets.

KEEPING SCORE: Gains in some Asian markets narrowed in the afternoon. Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to 17,371.58 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 1,921.71. China's Shanghai Composite climbed 0.4 percent to 2,938.17. Stocks in Southeast Asia also rose but Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 5,219.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng erased earlier gains closing down 0.3 percent at 23,249.20.

THE QUOTE: "Investors faced a mixed bag," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC. "Overnight news of strong US retail sales adds to a consolidating picture of improving growth in the world's largest economy," he said. "However, another slide in oil prices and caution ahead of monthly data on China's economy is likely to keep investors cautious about the materials stocks and the energy sector in particular."

US RETAIL: American retail sales perked up in November as cheaper gas and an improving job market fueled a promising start to the holiday shopping season. Retail sales advanced 0.7 percent, the highest in eight months. Excluding gas stations, whose sales were dented by falling gasoline prices, sales climbed 0.9 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 55 cents to $59.40 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 99 cents to settle at $59.95 a barrel on Thursday, its first time below $60 a barrel in more than five years. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, dropped 74 cents, to $62.94 on the ICE futures exchange in London. The lower energy costs have freed up money for consumers but stocks of energy companies have took a beating.

CHINA DATA: A source of caution for investors on Friday was a raft of data from China. China's factory output growth declined further in November, rising 7.2 percent over a year earlier. That was a slower pace than 7.7 percent growth in October and 8 percent expansion in September. Stan Shamu, an analyst at IG, said activity in retail and industrial production could fall short of expectations after the soft inflation reading earlier this week.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks closed higher after strong U.S. retail sales, though energy stocks lost ground. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent to 17,596.34. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.5 percent to 2,035.33 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite rose 0.5 percent to 4,708.16.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.2423 from $1.2398 while the dollar fell to 118.56 yen from 118.92 yen.