Asian stocks up, opinion polls show Britain may remain in EU

The 'Leave' camp had been a few percentage points ahead in recent polling, but fresh surveys brought the average back to neck-and-neck. Photograph:( Getty )

AFP Hong Kong Jun 20, 2016, 05.22 AM (IST)
Asia stocks were largely up today, building on gains at the end of last week as polls suggest Britain's upcoming referendum vote will result in the country staying in the European Union.

Markets across the region plunged last week amid concern about a possible "Brexit" -- or British decision to leave the EU -- but showed some improvement on Friday as the 'Remain' camp gained ground.

The average of the last six British EU referendum polls put the 'Remain' and 'Leave' camps level at 50-50, excluding undecided voters, according to the What UK Thinks website.

The 'Leave' camp had been a few percentage points ahead in recent polling, but fresh surveys brought the average back to neck-and-neck, after campaigning was suspended for three days following the murder of pro-EU British lawmaker Jo Cox on Thursday.

A Survation poll conducted on Friday and Saturday put 'Remain' at 45 per cent and 'Leave' at 42 per cent -- the reverse of its previous findings on Thursday.

Tokyo was up 2.2 per cent by the break today, adding to gains of 1.07 per cent at the end of last week, and Hong Kong rose 0.73 per cent in early morning trade. Singapore and Seoul were both up more than one per cent.

But in China, the Shanghai Composite Index eased 0.46 per cent while the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on the country's second exchange, fell 0.30 per cent.

Gold was down 1.12 per cent today, having hit a near two-year peak on Friday as investors sought the safe haven commodity on fears of the impact of a 'leave' vote on the world economy.
'Risk-on move' -
The Yen eased slightly to 104.71 to the Dollar in early morning trade in Tokyo, from 104.19 Yen in New York late Friday.

The Japanese currency, often seen as a safe haven, had also strengthened as concerns grew that the "Leave" camp was headed to victory.

"We are seeing a risk-on move after the latest Brexit poll," Niv Dagan, executive director at Peak Asset Management LLC in Melbourne, told Bloomberg.

"It may be short-lived and volatility is likely to remain high until Thursday's vote. This really could still go either way."

Aside from the EU vote, eyes were on the Bombay stock exchange ahead of opening, after the popular Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan announced on Friday that he would step down when his term ends in September.

Oil prices extended gains on a weaker Dollar, driving up demand for the commodity.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up 45 cents, or 0.94 per cent, trading at $48.43 a barrel while North Sea Brent was up 35 cents, or 0.71 per cent, trading at $49.52 a barrel.

 Key figures around 0230 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 2.2 per cent at 15,943.76 (break)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.46 per cent at 2871.84

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.73 per cent at 20,316.31

Euro/Dollar: UP at $1.1360 from $1.1280 late Friday

Pound/Dollar: UP at $1.4585 from $1.4348

Dollar/Yen: UP at 104.71 Yen from 104.19 yen

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.33 per cent at 17,675.16 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.19 per cent at 6,021.09 (close)