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Asian markets track global surge on oil deal hopes

China's exports broke an eight-month streak of declines to increase almost 19% in March
AFP

Hong Kong (AFP) – Energy firms led an Asian stock market rally on Wednesday as strong trade data from China and news of a deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to limit oil output injected much-needed optimism.

The renewed confidence also saw the safe-haven yen retreat against the dollar, having soared more than five percent since the start of the month.

US and European equities provided a perfect lead with healthy gains, after Russian news agency Interfax said  Moscow and Riyadh had reached  “consensus” on freezing oil output before a key producers’ meeting.

While most market-watchers say nations must actually cut production to have any lasting impact, the news raised hopes that at least a global glut — which saw prices plunge 75 percent from mid-2014 to February — can be addressed.

Major players from inside and outside the OPEC producers’ club are due to meet in Doha Sunday to discuss the crude crisis, which has hammered some of the world’s biggest energy companies and oil-exporter nations.

The two main oil contracts surged more than four percent to 2016 highs on the report, although they retreated Wednesday on profit-taking.

Energy firms were the main gainers in Asia. Hong Kong-listed CNOOC and PetroChina put on around six percent. In Sydney Woodside Petroleum was three percent higher and Rio Tinto up 4.5 percent. 

Japan’s Inpex added 3.9 percent.

The gains fed through to the wider stock markets, with Tokyo leading the way, soaring 2.8 percent by the close. Hong Kong was up 2.8 percent in the afternoon and Sydney ended 1.3 percent higher.

European markets, which rallied Tuesday, extended gains soon after the open with London 0.9 percent up, while Frankfurt and Paris each added 1.4 percent.

The International Monetary Fund’s decision to cut its global growth outlook and issue a warning that activity has been “too slow for too long” seemed to have little impact.

– Positive impact –

“Oil prices have rebounded, and the US market is becoming slightly risk-on,” Chihiro Ohta, general manager of investment information at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

“With oil prices higher, US financial institutions and energy companies’ credit issues can take a breather for now, and stock selling from oil-producing countries can be avoided. Investors are thinking they should buy back into the Japanese stock market as well.”

Shanghai ended 1.4 percent higher after official figures showed China’s exports surged in March to break an eight-month streak of declines.

The data is the latest to indicate a possible turnaround in the fortunes of the world’s number two economy, following upbeat inflation on Monday and a gauge of factory activity last month showing a surprise increase.

“Economic indicators are going in the right direction and  there’s more evidence that Chinese stimulus measures are positively impacting the economy,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at Sydney-based AMP Capital Investors.

Attention now turns to the release Friday of China’s first-quarter growth figures, after the economy expanded in 2015 at its slowest rate for a quarter of a century.

On currency markets the dollar pushed back against the yen, seen as a safe refuge in times of turmoil.

The greenback climbed to 108.90 yen, having earlier this week dipped below 108. Support came from a promise by Japan’s finance minister that officials would intervene to prevent the yen strengthening too much.

– Key figures around 0730 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 2.8 percent at 16,381.22 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.4 percent at 3,066.64 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 2.8 percent at 21,070.66

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 6,299.21

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1360 from $1.1386 Tuesday

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.90 yen from 108.57 yen

New York – Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 17,721.25 (close)

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