Singapore share prices open higher, Asia markets mostly up

Singapore share prices open higher, Asia markets mostly up

Asian markets opened mostly higher Friday, after US indexes ended higher and oil prices hit 2016 highs.

Singapore shares opened 0.53 per cent, or 15.21 points up, with The Straits Times Index at 2,895.38, according to The Business Times.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.41 per cent, boosted by a 1.88 per cent gain in its materials subindex and its energy subindex advancing 1.28 per cent.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 opened down 1.47 per cent, extending its fall over the previous three sessions. The index ended 0.22 per cent lower on Thursday.

The dollar/yen pair was trading mostly unchanged at 111.40 at 8:25 a.m. HK/SIN time, but below the 113 handle before the Fed policy announcement earlier this week. A stronger yen is generally a negative for Japanese stocks as it reduces the value of overseas profits when they're translated into the home currency.

Major Japanese exporters lost ground in early trade, with Toyota lower by 1.64 per cent, Nissan down 1.71 per cent and Honda shedding 1.62 per cent. Japanese electronics giant Toshiba was up 4.69 per cent.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was effectively unchanged in morning trade.

Oil prices jumped to 2016 highs as the dollar weakened and talk continued about an April 17 meeting of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC producers, including Russia. US benchmark WTI closed above $40 for the first time this year, advancing $1.75 to end the US session at $40.20 a barrel, its highest close since December 3.

Global benchmark Brent crude finished up $1.21 at $41.54 a barrel, after hitting a 2016 high of $41.60 earlier.

The greenback, meanwhile, weakened after the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it expected two rate hikes in 2016, not the four predicted earlier.

The dollar index closed overnight at 94.760, compared with its 96.642 close the day before the Fed statement.

"The US dollar capitulation in the wake of the unexpectedly dovish FOMC release yesterday has seen commodity process surge overnight," Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG, said in a Friday note.

"Materials and energy sectors are expected to lead the gains in the Asian session today, which bodes well for Chinese and Australian equity markets," he added.

In Australia, major resource producers were trading higher, with Rio Tinto shares up 2.81 per cent, Fortescue Metals surging 5.66 per cent and BHP Billiton 3.82 per cent higher.

Major US indexes all closed up, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.9 per cent, the S&P 500 up 0.66 per cent and the Nasdaq composite finishing up 0.23 per cent.

On the data front, the Bank of Japan released the minutes of its January monetary policy meeting, where it announced a negative rates policy, and China will release its keenly watched February house prices, amid fears of a housing bubble in some tier 1 cities.

In South Korea, in what is known as the "Super Shareholders Meeting" day, 333 South Korean companies will be holding their annual general meetings (AGMs), with markets likely to eye news out of Kia Motors, LG Chem and SK Group.

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