Asian stock markets made gains on Monday as policy easing by China and expectations of a final sign-off of the second bailout package for Greece buoyed investor sentiment.
China's central bank announced over the weekend, on Feb 18, a second cut in its banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR)-- the level of reserves banks must hold—by 50bps to 20.5 percent. The cut is the second in nearly three months. China first cut its RRR by 50bps to 21.0 percent on Nov 30, the first cut since the 2008 global crisis.
The latest move from the central bank will boost banks' lending capacity by an estimated 350-400 billion yuan ($55.6-$63.5 billion). Analysts’ at Credit Agricole Research expects further RRR cuts - up to 200bp - this year, and believe policy support will help engineer a soft landing in the Chinese economy.
The Japanese benchmark, Nikkei, gained 1.08 percent or 100.92 points to 9,485.0.9 and Chinese Shanghai Composite advanced 0.26 percent to 2,363.32 and South Korea’s Seoul Composite gained 0.07 percent, while Hong Kong’ Hang Seng pared gains as China’s latest move fueled concerns that it may be heading for a sharper slowdown.
Meanwhile, Greek parliament passed extra austerity measures and the second bailout package is more likely to be endoresed at Monday’s meeting in Brussels. European Finance Ministers are meeting in Brussels to close in on a 130 billion-euro ($170 billion) Greek bailout. Greece faces a looming deadline on March 20 when it needs to make repayments on a 14.5 billion euro bond, or become the first country in the euro's 13-year history to default.
Crude oil prices gained in Asian trade Monday on news that Iran has stopped selling crude to British and French companies.
Light sweet crude for March delivery gained 1.5 percent to $10.4.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange during Asian trading hours. Brent crude oil futures for April delivery rose 0.96 percent to $120.75 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.