Asian share markets edged ahead on Thursday after a sharp rise in oil prices whetted risk appetites and boosted Wall Street, with even Japanese stocks regaining a little ground despite a rising yen.
The dollar also stayed under pressure after minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting showed many participants wanted to move cautiously on rate hikes, partly because there was little room to ease policy should things turn for the worse.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan nudged up 0.4 percent, as did the South Korean market
Japan’s Nikkei eked out a bounce of 0.5 percent, having sunk to a seven-week low on Wednesday as a surging yen left it with five straight sessions of losses.
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Thursday the central bank would take additional monetary easing steps if needed, but the market seems to doubt he can do much more.
That is one reason the dollar was down at 109.70 yen after hitting its lowest since late October 2014 at 109.36. The yen climbed broadly with heavy buying seen against the euro, Swiss franc and Australian dollar.
The dollar was also soft on its own account with the euro up at $1.1405 and not far from the recent 5-1/2-month peak of $1.1437. The dollar was likewise near a 5-1/2-month low against the Swiss franc of 0.9532 franc.
Against a basket of currencies the dollar was pinned at 94.411, again near its lowest since October.
The drop in the dollar added to gains in oil which jumped 5 percent overnight as U.S. inventories unexpectedly fell and investors gauged the possibility of an output freeze.
Brent crude futures were up 29 cents at $40.13 on Thursday, a marked turnaround from a one-month low of $37.27 hit on Tuesday. U.S. crude rose 40 cents to $38.15.
The gains for oil boosted energy stocks and gave Wall Street a lift. The Dow had ended Wednesday 0.64 percent higher, while the S&P 500 gained 1.05 percent and the Nasdaq 1.59 percent.
Aiding risk sentiment were minutes of the Fed’s last meeting which showed many members reluctant to hike further in the face of global uncertainty.
“The take home from the March meeting is that, while the Fed remains happy with ongoing progress being made domestically, they are far less certain about the state of the world and its potential impact on the U.S. and the dollar,” said Elliot Clarke, an economist at Westpac.
“Until such time as confidence in global prospects increases, they are comfortable to hold fire.”
Markets have long been wagering the pause will be an extended one with Fed fund futures pricing in a one-in-five chance of a hike in June and just one move by Christmas.