Crude oil trimmed its biggest weekly jump since 2011, while Asian stocks fluctuated. U.S. equity-index futures signaled the first gains this week and the dollar was stronger against most major peers.
U.S. oil lost 2.1 percent, paring its jump in the week to 10 percent by 11:55 a.m. in Tokyo, while Brent crude retreated 1.6 percent. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed as Hong Kong shares dropped. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rebounded from its largest loss this year. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures climbed 0.3 percent following the gauge’s longest slump since January. The yen weakened 0.1 percent and the the Australian dollar slid 0.3 percent.
Oil led a jump in commodity prices Thursday after Yemen became the latest proxy battlefield between Iran and Saudi Arabia. China’s industrial company profits dropped 4.2 percent from a year before in the first two months of 2015, underscoring weakness in the world’s second-largest economy. An update on fourth-quarter growth in the U.S. may feed into speculation about the timeline for higher interest rates.
“It’s not a good thing that situation in the Middle East has become troubled, but after oil prices plummeted, it’s now better for the equity markets if oil prices rise,” said Yoshihiko Tabei, a senior analyst at Naito Securities Co. “It’ll put a break on the profit deterioration in the energy industry and the retreat in capital spending.”
Investors are weighing the potential for disruptions in Middle Eastern oil supplies against figures this week showing U.S. supplies of the commodity climbed to a fresh record.
West Texas Intermediate crude fell to $50.36 a barrel, halting its longest run of daily gains in more than a month. WTI soared 4.5 percent on Thursday to its highest settlement price since March 4. Brent oil slipped to $58.25, cutting its gain in the week to 5.3 percent.
Saudi Arabia led the airstrikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen as it seeks to prop up the country’s allied government. A coalition of 10 Sunni-ruled nations carried out raids around the Yemeni capital Sana’a, which is controlled by Houthi insurgents. Saudi Arabia and its allies support President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, while Shiite-led Iran has ties with the Houthi rebels.
“While we’ve got no actual supply disruption it’s pretty clear that the market is focused on the potential here, which is enormous,” Michael McCarthy, a chief markets strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone, referring to the situation in Yemen. “We’re likely to see a further increase in volatility as the price reacts to developments.”
The Asia-Pacific stock gauge is up almost 7 percent in the first quarter, its best start to a year since 2012. Nine of the 10 industry groups have advanced in 2015, with only energy shares retreating amid oil’s decline.
The S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.6 percent in Sydney, trimming its third weekly drop in four weeks to 1 percent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.2 percent, while a gauge of Chinese shares in the city dropped 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.3 percent, heading for a 1.5 percent gain on the week.
The Kospi index in Seoul swugn between gains and losses after sinking 1 percent Thursday, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index was up 0.1 percent, paring its second straight weekly retreat to 0.6 percent.
The Topix index increased 0.2 percent even as more than 1,440 of the 1,858 stocks on the Topix trade from today without the right to the next dividend. That’s equivalent to a 12.8 point decline on the measure, Bloomberg data show. The Topix has lost 0.5 percent this week, its first decrease since the week of Jan. 16.
The yen headed for a weekly advance of 0.6 percent. The currency touched 118.33 per dollar Thursday, its strongest intraday level since Feb. 20.
Core consumer prices in Japan, Asia’s second-largest economy, rose 2 percent last month from a year earlier, down from 2.2 percent in January and trailing the 2.1 percent predicted in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Central banks from Japan to Europe have been bolstering stimulus measures to stave off deflation amid the slump in oil prices and faltering economic growth.
The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index added 0.1 percent Friday, extending a 0.3 percent Thursday gain. The Aussie fell to 78.05 U.S. cents and the New Zealand dollar was 0.2 percent weaker at 75.81 U.S. cents.
In the U.S., where policy makers are mulling tightening policy, economists predict data Friday will show annualized gross domestic product expanded 2.4 percent last quarter, up from a previous reading of 2.2 percent.
The Federal Reserve said last week that it’s watching inflation and progress in the economy to gauge the right time to start raising key interest rates. Fed funds futures put the chance of an increase by September at 38 percent, down from 48 percent at the start of March.
Data Thursday showed fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week as improved weather conditions ushered in labor-market stabilization. A report Wednesday indicated durable-goods orders unexpectedly fell in February, following data last week that showed factory production fell and housing starts slowed.