Asia stocks surge on central bank stimulus hopes

GMT 09:06 2016 Friday ,22 January

Arab Today, arab today Asia stocks surge on central bank stimulus hopes

A woman passes a share price board in Tokyo on January 22, 2016
Hong Kong - AFP

Asian stocks soared with oil and emerging currencies Friday after Europe's top banker hinted at fresh stimulus measures in the face of a global market rout and a report said Japan's central bank was considering similar moves.

After a sell-off that has wiped several trillion dollars off global markets so far this year, the prospect that two of the world's biggest central banks were ready to finally step in gave investors something to cheer about.

On Thursday, European Central Bank boss Mario Draghi highlighted concerns about the impact of plunging equity and oil prices on already weak inflation and pledged to reconsider its monetary policy at its March policy meeting.

"We have the power, willingness and determination to act," he told a news conference. "There are no limits how far we are willing to deploy our policy instruments."

His comments lit a fire under European stocks and also supported a Wall Street rally.

On Friday, Japan's respected Nikkei business daily reported that the central bank is weighing up its own plans to fend off the threat of deflation that has been exacerbated by the oil crisis.

The latest developments spread some much-needed confidence around trading floors after the worst-ever start to a year.
Tokyo led the gains, surging 5.9 percent, the best one-day performance since early September, with a weaker yen helping exporters. Hong Kong ended 2.9 percent higher and Shanghai added 1.3 percent.

Sydney added more than one percent and Seoul 2.1 percent, while there were also substantial gains in Taipei, Singapore and Manila.

In early European trade London gained 1.6 percent, Frankfurt rallied 2.0 percent and Paris jumped 2.1 percent.

- 'Cavalry rescue' -
The cavalry might be coming to the rescue in terms of the central banks starting to sound more dovish," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy in Sydney at AMP Capital Investors, told Bloomberg TV.

"There's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. We've probably seen the worst and by the end of the year things will be a lot brighter than they are now."

Oil prices also extended gains to climb above $30 a barrel, having soared more than four percent on Thursday on the back of Draghi's comments and a report showing US inventories rose less than expected last week.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate added four percent and Brent was up 4.8 percent.

However, the two contracts remain around 12-year lows owing to a supply glut, weak demand, overproduction and a slowdown in the global economy. Earlier this week, WTI fell below $27 at one point and Brent went sub-$28.

Energy stocks surged, with BHP Billiton up 7.5 percent and Rio Tinto 3.4 percent higher in Sydney, while Hong Kong-listed CNOOC soared 8.1 percent and PetroChina climbed 7.9 percent.

The positivity also seeped into currency markets as investors shifted out of assets considered safe havens.

The dollar slipped against most emerging market units, with the South Korean won up 1.1 percent, Indonesia's rupiah gaining 0.4 percent and the oil-dependent Malaysian ringgit up 1.6 percent.

And the dollar advanced against the yen, which is the go-to currency in times of turmoil and uncertainty. The greenback edged up to 118.05 yen -- having tumbled more than two percent against the Japanese unit this year.

- Key figures around 0830 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 5.9 percent at 16,958.53 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.3 percent at 2,916.56 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 2.9 percent at 19,080.51 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.6 percent to 5,862.0

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0835 from $1.0878 Thursday  

Dollar/yen: UP at 118.05 yen from 117.66 yen

New York - Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 15,882.68 (close)


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