Asia markets mostly higher as oil climbs – CNBC

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Helping to drive market gains, oil prices jumped to their highest levels this year as the dollar weakened and talk continued about an April 17 meeting of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC producers, including Russia.

U.S. benchmark WTI had closed above $40 for the first time this year in overnight trade on Thursday, advancing $1.75 to end the U.S. session at $40.20 a barrel, its highest close since December 3.

In early Asian trading, U.S. light crude gained 0.15 percent to $40.26 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent crude was mostly unchanged at $41.57 a barrel after hitting a 2016 high of $41.60 in the U.S. session.

In energy plays around the region, Australia’s Santos was higher by 1.75 percent and Woodside Petroleum rose 1.69 percent , but Oil Search was lower by 1.13 percent. In Japan, Inpex climbed 1.31 percent, and Japan Petroleum Exploration was up 0.51. Chinese mainland energy plays fell, coming off from earlier gains, with Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical down 0.15 percent, China Petroleum lower 0.21 percent and PetroChina down 0.38 percent

In the currency market, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the yuan midpoint rate at 6.4628 against the dollar, 0.5 percent higher than Thursday’s fix. Reuters reported that this is the biggest daily rise to the yuan fix since November 2015.

“The [yuan] fix is coming in stronger than the markets had expected, and a gap move below 6.45 dollar-offshore yuan ensued,” Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA Asia Pacific, said in a Friday note. “Today’s yuan fixing plays into the notion that an imminent yuan devaluation is fading into the background.”

The greenback, meanwhile, weakened to a five-month low after the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it expected two rate hikes in 2016, not the four predicted earlier.

The dollar index closed overnight at 94.760, compared with its 96.642 close the day before the Fed statement. That helped to boost the prices of commodities, which are denominated in dollars.

In Australia, major resource producers were trading higher, with Rio Tinto shares up 0.96 percent, Fortescue Metals surging 3.77 percent and BHP Billiton 4.68 percent higher.

Investors were digesting news China’s February home prices rose by 3.6 percent, which Reuters reported is its highest rise since June 2014. Property stocks were mixed. Among Hong Kong-listed property plays, China Resources Land gained 0.49 percent, while Shimao Property added 1.53 percent.

Major U.S. indexes all closed up, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.9 percent, the S&P 500 up 0.66 percent and the Nasdaq composite finishing up 0.23 percent.

In South Korea, in what is known as the “Super Shareholders Meeting” day, 333 South Korean companies will be holding their annual general meetings (AGMs),with markets likely to eye news out of Kia Motors, LG Chem and SK Group.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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Asia markets mostly higher as oil climbs – CNBC}