Asia shares scale seven-week peak, commodities on the mend – The Globe and Mail

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Asian shares were bound for a third straight session of gains on Thursday as
upbeat data on U.S. jobs and a rally in a range of commodities whetted risk
appetites globally.

Notably, oil shrugged off record high U.S. crude stockpiles as investors
chose to focus on an OPEC plan to freeze production, keeping alive talk the
market had bottomed from a near two-year selloff.

U.S. crude edged up a further 9 cents to $34.75 a barrel, while Brent also
rose 9 cents to $37.02.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added another 0.9
per cent to reach a seven-week top, having surged 2.6 per cent on Wednesday.

Higher prices for copper and iron ore helped Australian stocks rise 0.8 per
cent to their highest in almost two months. Japan’s Nikkei firmed 0.8 per cent,
on top of a 4-per cent jump the previous session.

“Value is starting to snap back and some sectors that pretty recently were
hanging around all-time lows are showing signs of life,” said Nicholas Smith, a
strategist at CLSA.

“The general updraft in oil is helping confidence as well. Investors aren’t
yet ready to take on a lot of risk, but they are adding to their positions.”

Energy and bank stocks had led Wall Street higher on Wednesday, giving the
Dow a gain of 0.2 per cent. The S&P 500 added 0.41 per cent and the Nasdaq
0.29 per cent.

The calmer mood showed in the CBOE Volatility index, a measure of investor
anxiety, which closed at its lowest level so far this year.

Sentiment was underpinned by a report showing U.S. private sector jobs rose a
surprisingly strong 214,000 in February, adding to speculation Friday’s payrolls
report would also be upbeat.


Yet fissures remain in the global outlook, argued Justin Fabo, a senior
economist at Australia and New Zealand Bank.

Despite the latest bounce in commodities, prices were still very weak and a
lot of money had been borrowed on the assumption that they would not be.

“China has huge potential to roil markets as the nation navigates a difficult
structural transition,” he said. “Asian trade, traditionally a bellwether for
global growth, is in recession.”

“Risk is being repriced, and the ability of central banks to keep pulling
rabbits out of the hat is now pretty limited.”

Indeed, there are plenty of worries the European Central Bank could
disappoint expectations for aggressive easing when it meets next week – just as
it did in December.

Back then markets reacted violently when the central bank’s stimulus steps
stopped far short of what had been priced in, leading the euro to rocket 3 per
cent in just one session.

Fearing a re-run, investors are holding back on shorting the euro, keeping it
at $1.0871 and off a one-month trough of $1.0825. The dollar also faded a little
on the yen to 113.70, after losing grip of a two-week high at 114.56.

Instead, the limelight was stolen by the Australian dollar which neared its
2016 peak in the wake of surprisingly strong domestic economic data.

The Aussie was taking in the view at $0.7306, up 0.3 per cent on the day
following a 1.7 per cent rally on Wednesday.

Investors warmed to the currency after data showed fourth quarter economic
growth unexpectedly picked up to a healthy 3.0 per cent annual clip.

Asia shares scale seven-week peak, commodities on the mend – The Globe and Mail}