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Asia: Stocks surge on ECB move, oil rallies on Saudi king death


[HONG KONG] Asian equity markets rallied Friday after the European Central Bank announced a huge cash injection to kickstart the eurozone economy, while crude prices surged on news that the monarch of oil kingpin Saudi Arabia had died.

The ECB's unprecedented decision to pump tens of billions of dollars a month into financial markets sent the euro plunging to 11-year lows against the dollar and also fuelled a buying spree in US and European stock markets.

Hong Kong added 1.41 per cent, Shanghai gained 0.69 per cent, Sydney added 1.35 per cent and Seoul was 0.87 per cent higher. Tokyo jumped 0.84 per cent by the break.

After a much-anticipated policy meeting Thursday ECB chief Mario Draghi said it would buy 60 billion euros a month of private and public bonds from March until September 2016. Analysts had forecast 50 billion euros.

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The programme, known as quantitative easing (QE), had been widely predicted following a string of weak inflation figures out of the eurozone that culminated in a fall in prices in December for the first time in five years.

That sparked fears of a spiral of deflation and a long period of anaemic economic growth in the 19-nation currency bloc.

"Market expectations were high and Draghi managed to surprise even the highest of expectations," Nader Naeimi, Sydney-based head of dynamic asset allocation at AMP Capital Investors, told Bloomberg News.

"It clearly puts the ECB on the front foot. It should help to stabilise European growth." The announcement means the bank will effectively be printing more euros, hammering demand.

At one point Thursday the single currency tumbled to an 11-year low of US$1.1316 before recovering slightly to $1.1359 by the end of the day. On Friday morning it bought US$1.3458.

It was also at 134.60 yen Friday, against 134.63 yen in US trade and well down from 136.80 yen earlier Thursday in Asia.

The dollar was at 118.62 yen compared with 118.52 yen in New York.

The two main global crude contracts surged Friday following the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the oil kingpin and key member of the OPEC cartel that has refused to lower production despite a supply glut.

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz died on Friday and was replaced by Crown Prince Salman, the royal court said in a statement.

"The market is probably uncertain over what the new king would do about this over supply issue," said Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore.

"The market was just pricing this uncertainty," he told AFP.

The jump in prices comes as a relief to energy firms after months of sharp falls caused by weak global demand, an oversupply of the black gold and Opec's decision last year to maintain production levels.

Saudi Arabia rejected calls from some members to slash output, preferring instead to lower prices in a bid to gain market share.

Among Asian energy companies Sydney-listed Woodside jumped 2.38 per cent and Santos rallied 5.53 per cent, while in Tokyo Inpex climbed 1.21 per cent. In Hong Kong PetroChina was 1.49 per cent higher and Sinopec added 1.61 per cent.

Gold fetched US$1,299.72 an ounce, against US$1,286.66 late Thursday.