The Business Times

Oil extends gains, euro recovers on ECB assurances

Published Fri, Feb 6, 2015 · 02:50 AM

[HONG KONG] Oil prices extended their gains on Friday at the end of a volatile week for the commodity, while the euro held its own after the European Central Bank made assurances that Greek banks would have access to much-needed funds.

Investors seemed to shrug off a clash between Greece's new finance minister and his German counterpart over renegotiating Athens' debt, while a strong rally on Wall Street provided some support to regional markets.

While the Greek issue is still in focus, attention Friday will be on the release later in the day of US January jobs data, which could give fresh clues about Federal Reserve monetary policy.

In early trade Tokyo rose 0.80 per cent, Hong Kong added 0.31 per cent and Sydney gained 0.22 per cent - meaning it has climbed more than 10 per cent in 12 sessions.

However, Shanghai eased 0.50 per cent and Seoul dropped 0.31 per cent.

Oil enjoyed another uptick at the end of a week that has seen prices swing from six-year lows last Friday to highs not seen since the turn of the year.

"Volatility is rampant in oil markets right now; prices are gyrating up and down by five percent every other day as traders jostle for position," said Jasper Lawler, market analyst at trading group CMC Markets UK.

On Friday US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery was up 42 cents at US$50.90 a barrel and Brent gained 22 cents to US$56.79.

The contract late last week hit lows not seen since March 2009 owing to a global supply glut and a strong dollar. However, this week's rally has been put down to a technical rebound, while the dollar has also weakened since a batch of disappointing US data.

On Wall Street the Dow climbed 1.20 per cent, the S&P 500 rose 1.03 per cent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.03 per cent.

The euro was treading water following Thursday's advances that came in response to soothing noises out of the ECB over Greek banks' access to cash.

The single currency bought US$1.1472 and 134.83 yen early Friday, compared with US$1.1475 and 134.89 yen in New York Thursday afternoon.

The dollar was at 117.51 yen against 117.55 yen in US trade.

On Wednesday the euro tumbled after the bank said Greece's lenders would not be able to use government bonds as collateral to raise funds. But ECB officials said Thursday they could still tap its emergency liquidity assistance programme, dampening fears of an immediate banking crisis while Athens seeks new bailout terms with creditors.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis's talks with Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble got off to a frosty start Thursday when he and his anti-austerity Syriza party were reminded of its commitments to its creditors.

On the latest leg of a European charm offensive looking for a renegotiation of Greece's bailout, Varoufakis said he and Schaeuble had not found any common ground, while the German side said it was sceptical about Athens' proposals.

Gold fetched US$1,265.90 an ounce, against US$1,260.30 on Thursday.


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