China reported exports rose 18.7 per cent in yuan terms in March, compared to a year earlier, while imports dipped only a slight 1.7 per cent. That was a huge improvement on February, even though data at this time of year tends to be distorted by the New Year holidays.
The early investor reaction was to take the improvement on trust and push up China-sensitive assets such as the Australian dollar which climbed above 77 US cents.
Shanghai stocks gained 1.9 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 2.4 per cent to its highest in eight sessions. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 1.4 per cent and Australia gained 1.1 per cent.
Oil prices pared some of their early losses, having run into profit-taking after a barnstorming performance on Tuesday. Brent crude eased 27 cents at $44.432 barrel, while US crude lost 38 cents to $41.79.
Prices had hit four-month highs overnight on reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia may have reached consensus on an oil output cap.
Analysts at Citi noted US crude finished above its 200-day moving average since its long downtrend first started in 2014. “It suggests that the low is in and higher levels should continue to be seen in 2016,” wrote Citi.
A rally in energy stocks helped the Dow end Tuesday 0.94 per cent firmer, while the S&P 500 gained 0.97 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.8 per cent. The S&P 500 energy sector jumped 2.8 per cent.
All 10 S&P sectors closed higher and the Dow industrials posted their best day in about a month.
The lift in energy boosted the oil-sensitive Canadian dollar to near a nine-month peak while nudging the safe-haven yen back from recent highs.
Canada’s loonie stood at C$1.2765 per USD, not far from the overnight top of C$1.2750 — a level last seen in July.
The greenback was up at 108.81 yen, having climbed from a near 18-month trough around 107.63 set on Monday. The euro rose to 123.73 yen, putting further distance from a three-year low of 122.085 set last month.
Against the dollar, the euro eased to $1.1375 after turning around from a six-month peak of $1.1465. That helped the dollar index climb back above 94.141, from a near eight-month low of 93.627.
In commodity markets, copper and iron ore sat on large gains while gold held firm at $1,253.55 an ounce, having climbed to a three-week high of $1,262.60 on Tuesday.