Asia rides Wall Street higher, buoyant crude nears 6-week highs

Tokyo money traders work during the morning trading session in Tokyo, Japan on August 17.
Tokyo money traders work during the morning trading session in Tokyo, Japan on August 17.PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian stocks edged up on Friday (Aug 19)as Wall Street benefited from buoyant crude oil prices and expectations US borrowing costs will remain at stimulatory levels at least until year-end.

Japan's Nikkei added 0.5 per cent and South Korea's Kospi tacked on 0.2 per cent. Australian shares added 0.1 per cent.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan stood steady. The index was on track to rise 0.25 per cent on the week, during which it reached a 1-year high.

Global equities received a lift this week after the Federal Reserve's July policy meeting minutes showed that the US central bank was in no hurry to hike interest rates.

"Markets breathed a collective sigh of relief that minutes from the Federal Reserve's July meeting gave no clear indication the Fed is ready to raise interest rates," wrote Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets. "With central bank support, equities have been able to navigate thin summer trading and corporate reporting season with minimal volatility."

US stocks eked out gains on Thursday following upbeat earnings and forecasts from Wal-Mart and as higher oil lifted energy shares.

In currencies, the US dollar remained on the defensive after sliding to an 8-week low overnight in response to the Fed's minutes.

New York Fed President William Dudley, who said earlier this week that the central bank could possibly hike rates in September, reinforced his hawkish message on Thursday but that did little to support the bruised dollar.

The euro was little changed at US$1.1344 after touching $1.1366 overnight, its highest since June 24. The common currency was headed to gain 1.7 per cent this week.

The dollar was up 0.3 per cent at 100.160 yen but still within sight of an 8-week low of 99.550 hit on Tuesday. It was on track to lose 1.1 per cent on the week.

A weaker greenback tends to help commodities as it favours non-US buyers of dollar-denominated products.

In addition to a sagging dollar, crude oil has been boosted as the world's largest producers prepared to discuss a possible freeze in production levels.

US crude was up 0.2 per cent at US$48.33 a barrel, within close reach of US$48.38, its highest since July 5 scaled overnight. US crude was en route to rise 8.6 per cent this week and Brent was poised to add 8.3 per cent.

Both benchmarks have risen more than 20 per cent from a low in early August on news the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and other key exporters may revive talks on freezing output levels when they meet in Algeria next month.

The rapid rise puts oil, technically, in a bull market.