Asian markets see afternoon rebound after ECB move


A security officer stands guard at the main entrance of the Tokyo Stock Exchange during an afternoon trade session in Tokyo, Japan, 18 February 2016. Photo: Kimima Sa Mayama/EPA

A security officer stands guard at the main entrance of the Tokyo Stock Exchange during an afternoon trade session in Tokyo, Japan, 18 February 2016. Photo: Kimima Sa Mayama/EPA

Asian markets ended the week on a high Friday, with an afternoon rally erasing morning losses as investors changed tack on their view of comments from the European Central Bank head hinting its latest rate cut could be its last.

Regional markets sank into the red soon after opening as ECB boss Mario Draghi's statement was seen an indication of the limitations on finance chiefs to drag the global economy out of its long-running torpor.

The bank on Thursday announced a cut in its deposit rate further into negative territory as part of a series of stimulus that also included a ramping up of its huge bond-buying quantitative easing scheme -- measures that surpassed expectations.

The news sent European stocks soaring and the euro tumbling as traders gave a loud cheer, with analysts saying it beat expectations.

But within two hours Draghi told a news conference he did not anticipate making any further cuts, sparking a wave of selling that spread into Asia on fears the bank was running out of options.

Observers said central banks around the world are gradually running out of weapons to kick-start their respective economies after a series of measures.

However, investors across Asia turned bullish towards the end of the day as they reassessed their initial reaction to Draghi.

- Euro holds gains –

Tokyo ended up 0.5 percent, Hong Kong added 1.1 percent and Shanghai put on 0.2 percent. Sydney gained 0.3 percent and Seoul was 0.1 percent up while Singapore, Wellington, Manila and Taipei were also comfortably higher.

In early European trade Frankfurt and Paris each jumped 1.8 percent, while London gained 1.1 percent.

Kay Van-Petersen, a strategist at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore, told Bloomberg News the Draghi statement was "taken out of context".

"It said we don’t anticipate that it’ll be necessary to reduce rates further, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's (quantitative easing) here ... for the next four to five years in the eurozone".

However, while stocks reversed, the euro held on to most of its gains, sitting at $1.1173. It had fallen to as low as $1.0822 after the stimulus Thursday and then bounced above $1.12 on Draghi's comments.

Attention will now turn to policy meetings for the Federal Reserve next week, with hopes for some forward guidance on US interest rate policy, as well as the Bank of Japan.

Oil prices resumed their uptrend after dipping slightly Thursday, with investors heartened by this week's data showing a sharp drop in gasoline reserves, suggesting demand is picking up.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up 2.3 percent and Brent gained 1.7 percent.

- Key figures around 0830 GMT –

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 16,938.87 (close)

Shanghai - composite: UP 0.2 percent at 2,810.31 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.1 percent at 20,199.60 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.1 percent at 6,099.87

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1173 from $1.1183 on Thursday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.53 yen from 113.17 yen

New York - Dow: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 16,995.13 (close)

© AFP

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