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    MORNING BELL: Japan stocks hit 15-year high; oil down

    Japanese shares hit a new 15-year high on Wednesday on expectations of positive corporate earnings, while oil sagged after Saudi Arabia ended its military campaign in Yemen, easing tensions in the energy-rich Middle East. Japan's Nikkei .N225 rose 0.7 percent to a high not seen since April 2000. KS11 gained 0.4 percent, while Australian shares slipped.

    The Canadian dollar gave back about half a cent against the greenback on Tuesday, tracking lower oil prices after a Saudi Arabia-led coalition announced it was ending its military operation against Yemen. The price of crude, one of Canada's biggest exports, had risen some 15 percent this month on concerns that the civil war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia's southern neighbor, could destabilize the Middle East and reduce oil supplies. The Saudis said on Tuesday the bombing operation was over, and that it would now focus on security, counterterrorism, aid and finding a political solution for Yemen. 

    Japan posted its first trade surplus in nearly three years in March as exports of cars and electronics picked up, an encouraging sign that economic growth may be back on track after a sluggish start to the year. The 8.5 percent annual increase in exports in March matched the median estimate in a Reuters poll and was faster than a revised 2.5 percent increase in the year to February. Weighed down by lower oil prices, imports by value tumbled 14.5 percent, more than the 12.8 percent drop expected, leaving Japan with a trade surplus for the first time since June 2012. Disappointing data on manufacturing and consumer spending have raised doubts about the strength of domestic demand, while weakness in China and Europe have clouded the export picture.



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