Asian markets track global rally

A pedestrian walks past a share prices board showing numbers of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (C, top) in Tokyo on February 18, 2016. Tokyo shares closed more than two percent higher February 18, rebounding from losses the previous day to extend a global rally fuelled by a surge in oil prices. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange jumped 2.28 percent, or 360.44 points, to finish at 16,196.80.  AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP / JIJI PRESS / KAZUHIRO NOGI

Hong Kong / AFP

Asian stocks mostly joined a global rally on Thursday with a surge in oil prices providing some much-needed confidence as key producer Iran praised an output freeze by Saudi Arabia and
Crude, which last week flirted with 13-year lows, extended a surge that began Friday as dealers grow hopeful of an easing to the overproduction and supply glut that has hammered the commodity for a year and a half.
Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting which indicated the bank is unlikely to press on with further interest rate cuts any time soon also provided support to beleaguered markets.
Oil prices jumped Wednesday after Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh welcomed the pact between top two producers Russia and Saudi Arabia to pursue a coordinated strategy to limit output.
While he stopped short of committing Iran to any production curbs, his comments were taken as a step in the right direction.
On Wednesday, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate soared more than seven percent while Brent added 5.6 percent. And on Thursday, WTI added 1.7 percent while Brent was 0.4 percent higher.
The black gold has rocketed since Friday when rumours of the Saudi-Russia deal emerged.
“The risk of continued supply growth and potential ballooning of inventories is diminishing slightly,” Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.
Energy firms were pumped up in Asia, with Sydney-listed Woodside Petroleum up 4.6 percent, BHP Billiton was more than six percent higher, while CNOOC was 5.4 percent higher in Hong Kong and PetroChina added six percent.

‘Rally to continue’
On broader stock markets, Tokyo ended 2.3 percent higher, while Hong Kong and Sydney also finished 2.3 percent up. Seoul ended the day 1.3 percent higher.
“The storm is blowing over and markets are stabilising,” Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management, told Bloomberg News.
“Declines in oil had been weighing on risk sentiment, so it’s a positive sign that prices are rebounding.”
Traders appeared to shrug off figures earlier Thursday that showed Japan fell back into a trade deficit in January as exports to China plunged.
However, Chinese stocks closed slightly lower on Thursday, ending two days of gains as tepid inflation figures in January failed to boost the market, dealers said.
Shanghai slipped 0.16 percent, after a more-than-four-percent jump in the previous two sessions fuelled by hopes for economy-boosting measures by China’s government.
Data showed inflation hit 1.8 percent last month, up marginally from December’s 1.6 percent increase, but analysts warned against being too optimistic with many structural problems still in place.
US and European stocks provided a firm platform from their Asian counterparts, with the Fed minutes also tempering concerns about any possible tightening this year.
The minutes showed policymakers were worried about the impact of recent world market gyrations on the US economy and that they would closely follow events when deciding on whether to hike rates again.
The string of upbeat news led analysts to suggest the turmoil that has blown through trading floors from Asia to the Americas may be coming to an end.
“The Fed minutes show that it does look like they’re gearing up for a slower rate hike path, which is good” for higher-risk assets, Nader Naeimi, Sydney-based head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors, said.
“I think this rally has further to go, with the conditions set for the rebound to continue for a little while.”
In early European trade London was down 0.2 percent, Frankfurt climbed 0.5 percent and Paris also won 0.5 percent.

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