Global Markets - Asia stocks gain as Brexit fears ebb slightly, safe-havens retreat

TOKYO (June 20): Asian stocks gained as some fears that Britain would vote to leave the European Union abated on Monday, boosting a recovery in both sterling and investors' taste for risk assets.

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

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1%.

Australian stocks added 1.2% and South Korea's Kospi rose 1.1%.

Japan's Nikkei climbed more than 2%, 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 UK 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 1.6% to US$1.4589, extending a recovery from last week's two-month trough of US$1.4013. It jumped 1.9% to 152.42 yen, pulling well away from a three-year trough of 145.34 set on Thursday.

The euro rose 0.7% to US$1.1360.

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% at 104.630 yen.

The Australian dollar, seen as a rough measure of risk sentiment, was up 0.6% at US$0.7442 to put further distance between a two-week trough of US$0.7286 touched late last week.

The dollar index touched an 11-day low of 93.563 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 US 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.

US crude gained 0.9% to US$48.42 a barrel and Brent crude was up 0.7% at US$49.52 per barrel.

Gold fell as the latest ebb in risk aversion dented investor demand for safe-haven assets. Spot gold was down 1.2% at US$1,282.73 an ounce, climbing down from a near two-year high of US$1,315.55 scaled last week.

The US Treasury 10-year note yield rose to as high as 1.6610%, 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.