Hong Kong / AFP
Asian shares swept higher on Monday, with Shanghai leading the charge after China
replaced its securities
regulator, while a rise in oil prices cheered investors across the region.
Equities extended last week’s sharp rally, notching gains almost across the board after news that Russia and Saudi Arabia may freeze production sent crude higher.
Chinese shares closed up more than two percent after the head of the securities
regulatory body who was in place during last year’s market rout was dismissed, while Japan’s exporters gained on a weaker yen.
But traders remained cautious after a rollercoaster start to the year. The pound sank after London’s popular mayor said he would campaign for Britain to leave the EU in a June referendum.
“People are willing to take risk again,” Karl Goody, a private wealth manager at Shaw and Partners in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.
“People are looking at the sell-off this year and saying: enough is enough, there’s been enough pain now.” Financial markets have been on edge as fears the world economy is stalling have sent stocks and commodities tumbling and hammered oil prices, already weighed down by a global supply glut.
Crude flirted with 13-year lows this month, diving below $30 a barrel, but news that major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia plan to cap production has eased some concerns the market will be oversupplied for years.
At around 0845 GMT Monday, US benchmark WTI for delivery in March was up 84 cents at $30.48. Brent, for April, advanced 75 cents to $33.75 a barrel.
China fires regulator head
Chinese shares jumped after state media reported Saturday that the head of the country’s securities regulator, Xiao Gang, would be replaced by Liu Shiyu, chairman of the Agricultural Bank of China.
China has been struggling to reassure investors it has a grip on its financial markets after a rout last summer wiped trillions off equities, prompting the government to step in and tighten regulations.
Shanghai fell 23 percent in January, the world’s worst-performing major market.
Its benchmark index closed Monday up 2.35 percent, while Hong Kong ended 0.93 percent higher. Tokyo added 0.90 percent and European stocks rose at the open.
In currency markets, the pound fell the most against the dollar in a month as campaigning over a potential “Brexit” from the European Union began in earnest.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s push to keep Britain in the bloc after clinching a “special status” reform deal took a blow on Sunday when London Mayor Boris Johnson said he would support leaving.
The pound dropped more than one percent against the dollar in response, and was trading at $1.4182 at 0845 GMT, compared to $1.4392 in New York on Friday.
“Brexit will be one of the biggest events in 2016,” said Evan Lucas, a markets strategist at IG in Melbourne.
“Boris Johnson’s decision over the weekend to support the Brexit campaign has caused the pound to move wildly. He is widely believed to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and is highly popular — his position has a lot of influence.”