Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

TOKYO — Asian shares inched higher on Tuesday after global oil prices soared to three-month highs on the growing hope of more co-ordinated measures from oil-producing countries to stem tumbling prices.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.1% in early trade while Japan’s Nikkei average bucked the trend and dipped 0.3%. Global oil markets jumped more than 5% on Monday, with Brent hitting a 2016 peak above $40 a barrel, after Ecuador said it was holding a meeting of Latin American crude producers as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) sought a higher anchor price for oil.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Guillaume Long said his government would host a meeting in Quito on Friday with Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico "to reach consensus over oil, especially prices".

"At least oil-producing countries no longer appear to be competing for market shares. There may not be an output cut but there (is) likely (to) be an output freeze at least. Because bets against oil were so large early this year now we are seeing a bit of unwinding in that position," Standard Chartered Bank executive director of financial markets Koichi Yoshikawa said in Tokyo.

Brent crude futures jumped to as high as $41.04 a barrel on Monday, extending their recovery from a 12-year trough of $27.10 hit in January.

US crude futures also rose to $38.11 a barrel, its highest since early January.

Further improving the mood in the battered commodity sector, spot iron ore price surged almost 20%, hitting a nine-month high.

The big jump in energy and commodity prices have boosted various assets that have taken a hit in recent months, especially as concern about weak energy and commodity markets played into the broader fear of slowing global economic growth.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 energy sector rose 2.4% while weakness in the tech sector offset gains in the overall market.

The S&P 500 index was only 0.1% higher at 2,001.76 while the Nasdaq composite index edged down 0.2%.

In the currency market, investors rushed back to commodity-linked currencies, sending the Australian dollar to as high as $0.7486 on Monday, its highest in almost eight months.

The Aussie last stood at $0.7456.

The Canadian dollar also firmed to a three-and-a-half-month high of C$1.3262 per US dollar and last stood at C$1.3290.

In Latin America, the Mexican peso, the Chilean peso and the Colombian peso all hit multimonth highs.

While the dollar was soft in general, major currencies saw limited moves.

The euro traded at $1.1015, holding near one-week highs of $1.10435, ahead of the European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) policy announcement on Thursday.

Many investors expect the ECB to cut its deposit rates further into negative territory and possibly step up its asset purchases.

The yen maintained slight gains made on Monday to trade at ¥113.33 to the dollar.

The currency hardly moved in response to data showing Japan’s economy shrank an annualised 1.1% in October-December, slightly less than an initial estimate of a 1.4% contraction

The dollar’s weakness helped to underpin gold, which hit a 13-month high of $1,280/oz on Monday and last stood at $1,266.

A big focus in Asia is on China’s trade data due later in the day.

Reuters