Asia markets rise, Singapore shares gain 0.36%

Asia markets rise, Singapore shares gain 0.36%

Asia markets were mostly up on Monday morning, following a higher finish in US equities on Friday on the back of encouraging data on US domestic unemployment and manufacturing.

Singapore shares opened higher, with the Straits Times Index gaining 0.36 per cent, or 10.16 points, to 2,828.65, The Business Times reported.

Australia's ASX 200 was up 0.25 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei 225 was up 0.23 per cent and the Kospi in South Korea was up 0.05 per cent.

Friday's US nonfarm payrolls added 215,000 jobs in March, beating expectations for 205,000 jobs. The US unemployment rate was at 5.0 per cent, the first month-over-month increase since May 2015.

US crude futures retreated during Asian hours, down 1.17 per cent at US$36.36 (S$49) a barrel, after finishing down 4 per cent on Friday. Global benchmark Brent futures were off 2.34 per cent at US$38.67 last Friday.

Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG, said in a morning note that Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer in the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is still dominating negotiations around the production freeze accord.

Saudi Arabia's deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made remarks last week that cast fresh doubts over the ability of world oil producers to agree to an output freeze at their meeting in Qatar on April 17. The prince was reported as saying the kingdom would not participate in a freeze if Iran and other major producers, both OPEC and non-OPEC, do not join the programme.

Bin Salman's remarks helped to knock 4 per cent off the price of US crude Friday.

"There has not been one proposal yet that Iran has remotely entertained," said Lucas, adding Iran was still producing 25 to 30 per cent below its pre-sanctions levels. "[That is] the level Iran wants to reach before entertaining any form of 'freeze.'"

Iran's Minister of Petroleum, Bijan Zanganeh, said over the weekend that the country is exporting above 2 million barrels of oil and gas condensates a day, according to the Shana news agency.

Energy plays in Asia were mixed on Monday, with shares of Santos down 2.3 per cent and Woodside Petroleum down 1.01 per cent, while Inpex added 0.33 per cent.

Markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are closed today.

Major US indexes closed higher on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.61 per cent, the S&P 500 higher by 0.63 per cent and the Nasdaq composite ending up 0.92 per cent.

- Patti Domm contributed to this report.

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