The stock market in Hong Kong opened higher on Thursday morning, led by ICBC, which reported Q4 results on Wednesday in line with expectations. Positive closing by the U.S markets on Wednesday also lifted market sentiment.

On Wednesday, The Dow closed up 89.84 points or 1.2% at 7,750, the Nasdaq closed up 12.43 points or 0.8% at 1,529 and the S&P 500 closed up 7.63 points or 1% at 814.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently up $0.56 at $53.33 a barrel, in electronic trading. Crude oil futures settled Wednesday's session in New York at $52.77 a barrel, representing a decline of $1.21, with the drop attributed to the EIA's weekly inventory report that showed another week of a build-up in crude oil stockpiles.

The benchmark HangSeng Index in Hong Kong opened Thursday's session at 13,821 compared to its previous close at 13,622, and is presently trading at 13,945, up 2.37% or 323.03 points.

Financial stocks are leading the gains in early trading. ICBC bank reported flat results for the fourth quarter, which was in line with expectations. ICBC stated that the percentage of special mention loans is unlikely to increase in 2009. The special mention loans accounted for about 5.2% of the total loans of the bank in 2008, the bank noted. Shares of ICBC are advancing more than 10.8% on huge volumes, driving the market indices higher.

Among other financials, CCB is advancing 5.66%, Bank of China is gaining 4.89% and Bank of Communications is rising 4.96%. Bank of East Asia is adding 1.31% and Hang Seng Bank is up 0.99%. However, HSBC Holdings is down 0.46%.

Insurance stocks are also advancing. Ping An is gaining 3.41% and China Life is rising 2.76%.

Among resource stocks, Aluminum Corporation of China, or Chalco, is gaining 4.76%, CNOOC is rising 0.63%, and Petrochina is advancing 1.85%.

China-related stocks are also moving to the upside. China Mercantile Holdings is rising 4.64%, Sinopec Corp. is gaining 4.09%, China Overseas is advancing 1.83%, and China Resources is up 0.98%.

Telecom stocks are trading higher. Hutchison Whimpoa is rising 2.55%, China Mobile is gaining 1.27% and Tencent Holdings is adding 0.82%.

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