Asian markets jump higher as oil prices gain

Asia-Pacific stocks were broadly higher Thursday as oil prices rose to a 3 1/2 -year high.

Markets in the Greater China region led the advance. Hong Kong’s China Enterprises Index, made up of Chinese-based firms with listings in Hong Kong, climbed 2.1%, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index HSI, +1.29%  rose 1.3%.

Oil-related stocks helped fuel gains. PetroChina 601857, +1.31%  jumped 5% and peer Cnooc rose more than 3%.

Australian energy stocks rose a further 1%, putting the month’s advance at 8.6%, on pace for the biggest monthly gain since 2011.

Oil futures CLK8, +0.44%  rose nearly 3% on Wednesday and were up a further 0.6% in Asian trading Thursday after data showed U.S. stockpiles fell by more than analysts were expecting.

Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said recent data show industrial demand is stronger than what has been expected and that “we might underestimate the strength of turnaround of the global economy.”

After muted gains in U.S. stocks on Wednesday, S&P 500 futures ESM8, +0.06%  were recently up 0.1%.

Signs of easing geopolitical tensions have helped smooth markets recently.

“The trade risk between the U.S. and China can be reduced because ultimately China can use North Korea as a bargaining chip,” said James Cheo, senior investment strategist at Bank of Singapore.

But Vincent Wen, an investment manager at KCG Securities Asia, noted that fears about trade tensions and other geopolitical risks could re-emerge at any time. The weak March trade data from China should also keep investors alert, he added.

“The stock markets are in an ongoing tussle between the bulls and the bears, and investors shouldn’t be too positive towards the outlook,” said Mr. Wen. But he is upbeat on consumption-related stocks, which are still benefiting from China’s steady inflation growth.

While stock indexes in export-reliant Taiwan Y9999, +1.14%  and Singapore were also up more than 1%, indexes elsewhere in Asia saw gains of less than 0.5%.

The Philippines’ benchmark was the lone decliner. The PSEi PSEI, -3.28%  fell nearly 3%, hitting a one-year low and putting the month’s slide at 5.2%.

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