Asian shares firm after sharp rebound in oil, BOJ in focus


By Hideyuki Sano

Asian stocks held firm on Wednesday as oil prices showed some signs of life, supporting battered resource shares and emerging economy currencies, while Japanese markets were tentative ahead of a crucial Bank of Japan policy meeting.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.7 percent, hitting its highest level in nearly three weeks and extending gains to 7.5 percent from three-year lows set on Sept. 29.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 was almost flat ahead of the Bank of Japan policy announcement later in the day.

Although a string of weak Japanese economic data has raised speculation of fresh stimulus from the BOJ, most market players believe governor Haruhiko Kuroda would prefer to sit tight for now.

“I do not expect a policy change nor comments to hint at future easing at Kuroda’s news conference. Rising expectations that the Fed will hold off raising rates could have a similar impact (on markets) as any easings. It seems wiser to benefit from that now,” said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

Data on Friday showing a surprisingly soft reading on U.S. jobs led many investors to scale back their expectations that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates this year.

That in turn has supported riskier assets which had come under pressure partly on worries the Fed would tighten policy at a time of cooling growth in China and globally.

The biggest mover in the last 24 hours was oil prices, which jumped to one-month highs after breaking above key resistances, supported by news that non-OPEC producer Russia and key OPEC member Saudi Arabia discussed the oil market last week.

The two countries plan to continue exchanging views on the oil market, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters.

Oil traders were encouraged by expectations the world’s two largest oil exporting countries may take measures to ease a supply glut, even though analysts have warned that their different positions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s future may hamper cooperation.

Brent LCOc1, the global benchmark for crude, hit one-month high of $52.47 per barrel, adding 0.6 percent in Asia after a 5.4 percent rise the previous day.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 hit their highest level since late July, rising to as high as $49.38.

Silver XAG= also jumped to 3 1/2-month high of $15.965 per ounce on Tuesday and last stood at $15.935.

All of these underpinned commodity currencies and emerging market assets that have been rocked by concerns of slower growth in China.

The Brazilian real BRL= rose to its highest level in almost three weeks, also helped by hopes that President Dilma Rousseff’s efforts to strengthen her political coalition through a cabinet reshuffle will pay off.

The Australian dollar hit a two-week high AUD= of $0.7178 while the Canadian dollar firmed to C$1.3026, closing in on its September peak of C$1.3013.

The U.S. dollar was soft against major currencies as expectations of a Fed rate hike before year-end ebbed.

The dollar’s index against six major currencies stood at 95.48, just above its low of 95.218 touched on Friday.

The euro traded at $1.1267 EUR=, near this week’s high of $1.12895.

The yen moved little at 120.26 to the dollar JPY= ahead of the BOJ’s meeting.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)



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