Asia Stocks Gain as Brexit Fears Ebb Slightly

TOKYO (Reuters) -
Men walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan January 20, 2016. Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average tumbled to a fresh 14-1/2 month low on Wednesday as global markets were battered by plunging crude prices that slid to nearly $27 a barrel in the U.S. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Men walk past an electronic board showing Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Asian stocks gained across the board on Monday as fears that Britain would vote to leave the European Union abated a little, aiding a recovery in both sterling and investor risk appetite.

Safe-haven assets and currencies like gold, government bonds and the yen retreated.

Spreadbetters expected equities to remain on the upswing, forecasting a significantly higher open for Britain’s FTSE , Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.3 percent.

Australian stocks added 1.4 percent and South Korea’s Kospi rose 1.5 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 2.4 percent, helped by a retreat in the recently bullish yen.

“Those who were risk averse are reversing their positions,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in Tokyo.

“Sentiment was extremely negative last week, but it’s recovering now, though we should not be overly optimistic.”

Three British opinion polls ahead of the EU membership referendum on June 23 showed the “Remain” camp recovering some momentum, although the overall picture remained one of an evenly split electorate.

Global markets, buffeted this month by Brexit woes, had a breather at end of last week from a three-day suspension in British campaigning following the fatal attack on lawmaker Jo Cox, a strong supporter of Britain staying in the EU.

“It is hard to think the market’s calmer tone to end last week is going to be an ongoing theme this week, particularly as Brexit campaigning and the release of opinion polls has resumed again,” wrote strategists at ANZ.

“To be fair, the sad murder of U.K. politician Jo Cox may see the rhetoric from both camps get toned down somewhat. But markets will still, no doubt, swing about with movements in opinion polls, just as they did last week.”

The pound meanwhile climbed 1.5 percent to $1.4580, extending a recovery from last week’s two-month trough of $1.4013. It jumped 2 percent to 152.72 yen, pulling well away from a three-year trough of 145.34 set on Thursday.

The euro rose 0.8 percent to $1.1371.

The safe-haven yen, which had soared to a 22-month high of 103.555 per dollar last week on Brexit woes, pulled back. The dollar was up 0.5 percent at 104.640 yen.

The Australian dollar, seen as a rough measure of risk sentiment, was up 0.7 percent at $0.7450 to put further distance between a two-week trough of $0.7286 touched late last week.

The dollar index touched an 11-day low of 93.449 as the greenback gave back ground against most of its major peers, apart from the yen.

Dovish comments from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Friday also weighed on the U.S. currency.

In commodities, crude oil prices extended gains as easing Brexit worries and a weaker dollar helped the commodity after six straight days of declines. U.S. crude gained 1 percent to $48.44 a barrel and Brent crude was up 0.8 percent at $49.56 per barrel.

Gold fell as the latest ebb in risk aversion dented investor demand for safe-haven assets. Spot gold was down 1.3 percent at $1,281.00 an ounce, climbing down from a near two-year high of $1,315.55 scaled last week.

The U.S. Treasury 10-year note yield rose to as high as 1.6610 percent, pulling back sharply from a four-year low of 1.5180 plumbed on Thursday. The 10-year Japanese government bond yield also hovered significantly above a record low touched last week.