Asia stocks up, eyes on US jobs, China

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HONG KONG: The broadly upbeat mood that has pushed global markets higher recently helped extend gains on most Asian trading floors on Thursday following a lead from Wall Street.

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Energy firms were the big winners thanks to the recovery in crude, while there are hopes that China’s leadership will unveil new economy-boosting measures when they start a policy meeting at the weekend.

After a nerve-shattering start to the year that saw trillions of dollar wiped off valuations, there are hopes markets have found some stability.

Confidence has been given a lift from positive US data on jobs Wednesday, China’s decision to loosen monetary policy further and talk of a deal between Saudi Arabia and other key producers on limiting oil output to shore up prices.

Payrolls firm ADP said the US private sector added 214,000 jobs in February, better than the 190,000 expected.

The report came ahead of Friday’s US Department of Labor February jobs figures and will provide some reassurance following weeks of worry that the world’s top economy may not be as strong as originally thought.

“The better US data flow continued to support the improvement in risk appetite in financial markets,” Sharon Zollner, a senior economist in Auckland at ANZ Bank New Zealand, said in a client note.

“Global markets have broadly had a much better time of it in recent weeks as speculation rises that the early-year pessimism was overcooked, particularly regarding the US,” she added, according to Bloomberg News.

Energy firms rise

Tokyo ended up 1.3 percent, Shanghai gained 0.4 percent and Sydney 1.2 percent, while there were also strong gains in Singapore, Wellington, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur.

However, after a two-day surge of about 4.5 percent, Hong Kong retreated 0.3 percent.
In early European trade London dipped 0.1 percent, Frankfurt gained 0.3 percent and Paris added 0.1 percent.

“Globally it’s becoming risk-on,” said Ryoma Sugihara, head of equity flow sales in Tokyo at Societe Generale, referring to rising confidence.

“We’re starting to see the bottom in US manufacturing, oil is rebounding, China is stabilizing.”

Traders are also keeping watch on events in Beijing where the government Saturday heads into the National People’s Congress, where delegates will sign off on a new five-year economic plan.

The gathering comes days after the central bank cut the amount of cash banks must keep in reserve, its latest move to try to ramp up lending in order to kickstart slowing growth.

Energy firms enjoyed more buying interest thanks to the recent pick-up in oil. Sydney-listed BHP Billiton was more than three percent up and Rio Tinto was 2.1 percent better off, while Inpex surged 5.8 percent in Tokyo and JX Holdings soared 2.8 percent.

Crude, which in January was wallowing near 13-year lows below $30 a barrel, dipped in Asia but was holding most gains despite another increase in US stockpiles. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate dipped 0.1 percent to $34.64 and Brent dipped 0.5 percent to $36.74.

Dealers have been buoyed by talk among producers of a plan to coordinate a limit to output. Saudi Arabia, Russia and others have said they would abide by such a cap if other producers follow suit.

AFP

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