Asian stocks headed higher on Monday after oil soared 10 percent on Friday and investors speculated the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan will take steps in their meetings this week to calm markets after a turbulent start for the year. The ASX 200 in Australia, home to many metal and energy companies, rose for a third day, gaining 1 percent. The STI in trade-dependent Singapore climbed 1.7 percent, the KOSPI in industry-heavy South Korea rose 0.5 percent and shares in Shenzhen added 1.3 percent. Japan was little changed.
On Friday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite both rose more than 2 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1. 3 percent.
The stock gains came as crude oil climbed above $32 a barrel amid speculation that traders had judged that a long and sometimes steep decline below $28 a barrel was overdone. Oil has fallen from over $100 a barrel in mid-2014, crossing $40 in December and $30 this month to its lowest price since 2013 as China's economy slowed, U.S. production increased, Saudi Arabia refused to cut output and Iran returned to the market after the lifting of economic sanctions. That forced energy companies to cut exploration and production, hurting the industries that supply them and dragging global stocks.
Last week, the European Central Bank said it may "reconsider" monetary policy as early as March, when most traders expected a review midyear at the earliest. This week, the Fed will hold its first meeting since last month's historic interest rate increased and the Bank of Japan will also convene.
“What has been the cause for this turnaround? Well, valuations must have looked more attractive to bargain-hunter investors, and perhaps sentiment had just got too bearish,” said Philip Borkin, a senior economist in Auckland at ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd., as reported by Bloomberg. “But markets have also taken kindly to the ECB’s signal of possible additional stimulus. Expectations for the central bank ‘put’ appear alive and well.”
The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, meets on Tuesday and Wednesday while the Bank of Japan is expected to issue its statement on Friday. In December, the Fed raised interest rates from near zero for the first time since the global financial crisis, judging the economy healthy enough to "normalize" interest rates. While most analysts expected the Fed to space further increases instead of implementing another this month, some now expect the bank will communicate an even more calming stance this week.
"The calendar this week is busy, with the Federal Open Market Committee and BOJ meetings the main highlights. We expect no action from the Fed or BOJ, although investors will be looking for a more dovish forward bias as the renewed decline in oil prices lowers inflation expectations globally," wrote strategists at Barclays, as reported by Reuters.