Asian shares head higher, oil falls as Suez Canal ship re-floated

Salvage teams have freed a container ship stuck in the crucial waterway since last week, blocking hundreds of vessels.

The Ever Given container ship blocking transit along the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt, has raised concerns about the global supply of crucial raw materials, components and consumer goods [Islam Safwat/Bloomberg]

Asian share markets have edged higher while oil prices slipped as a giant ship blocking the Suez Canal was refloated, raising hopes the vital waterway could reopen and ease global shipping backlogs.

Salvage teams freed the Ever Given in the Suez Canal on Monday, according to maritime services provider Inchcape, almost a week after the giant vessel ran aground in one of the world’s most important trade routes.

While the 400-meter-long (1,312-feet) ship is floating again, it was not immediately clear how soon the waterway would be open to traffic, or how long it will take to clear the logjam of more than 450 ships that are stuck or on the way to the Suez.

Oil prices eased as investors assumed the refloating of the Ever Given would allow tankers to again use the waterway which accounts for 12 percent of global trade.

Investors will also be cautious ahead of a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries this week, which will have to decide whether to extend supply limits, or loosen the spigots.

Brent crude fell 90 cents to $63.67 a barrel, while United States crude lost $1.03 to $59.94 per barrel.

The news of the refloated ship added to optimism about world growth as markets look to United States President Joe Biden to outline his infrastructure spending plans this week, which could supercharge an already accelerating US recovery.

“We expect the global economy to expand robustly at 6.4 percent this year, fuelled by a large US fiscal stimulus, with positive spillovers for the rest of the world,” said Barclays economist Christian Keller.

“Rising inflation over the coming months should be transitory and core central banks seem committed to looking through it.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.3 percent, with activity restrained by the approach of quarter-end. Chinese blue chips rose 0.8 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei gained 1 percent, though there was some nervousness when Nomura reported its US unit could face a $2bn loss related to a client.

There was also some caution after a $20bn wave of large share sales hit markets on Friday, reportedly linked to investment fund Archegos Capital.

Eyes on inflation

Nasdaq futures were down 0.6 percent and S&P 500 futures were off by 0.5 percent. EUROSTOXX 50 futures managed to rise by 0.2 percent, while FTSE futures were little changed.

The S&P 500 Index climbed 1.7 percent on Friday.

S&P 500 index weekly change chart [Bloomberg]

The prospect of faster US economic growth has spurred speculation of rising inflation and weighed on Treasury prices. Yields on US 10-year notes eased a touch on Monday to 1.66 percent, but were still not far from the recent 13-month top of 1.754 percent.

European yields have been restrained by active buying from the European Central Bank, widening the dollar’s yield advantage over the euro. The single currency was last at $1.1786, having hit a five-month low of $1.1760 last week.

Analysts at TD Securities noted the euro had failed to find any benefit from a very strong German business confidence survey on Friday that showed morale at a near two-year high and signs of recovery in the service sector.

The dollar held at 109.50 yen, having reached its highest since early June on Friday at 109.84. The dollar index stood at 92.774, after reaching its highest since mid-November.

The lift in yields has weighed on gold, which offers no fixed return, and left it at $1,730 an ounce.

Source: News Agencies