Oil prices surged on Monday

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Oil prices surged on Monday to build on last week’s rally as the yen continued its rise against the greenback, backed by concerns over gridlock in Washington and renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened, reports BSS.

On equity markets, Tokyo slipped as the yen hardened against the dollar while Shanghai edged up, shrugging off disappointing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), data a gauge of factory conditions. Analysts said a host of factors was pushing the market’s newfound optimism in oil.

A pumpjack drills for oil in the Monterey Shale, California

“Inventories are showing massive drawdowns, Saudi Arabia seems intent on playing its role as the world’s swing producer ahead of the Aramco IPO, impending sanctions on Venezuela by the US will almost certainly be oil price supportive with a weaker US dollar and conflict within Washington DC all lending a hand,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“There also appears to be less urgency by shale producers to hedge forward production for now which has snuffed out previous rallies.”

JAPANESE ECONOMY STRONGER

The yen’s rise came as the dollar continued to struggle, dragged down by increasing uncertainty in the US capital after another failed attempt at health care reform, while the currency also took a hit from US GDP data which cast further doubt on any early interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve. Stephen Innes, who heads Asia-Pacific trading at forex firm OANDA, played down hopes of a US dollar rebound.

“There remains real appetite to sell the USD … as it’s becoming evident to all the greenback has problems, and the can of worms is barely open.”

Meanwhile, Japan’s industrial output for June rose 1.6 percent from the previous month, ahead of forecasts of 1.5 percent and rebounding with global demand.

“Demand for information technology investment and a recovery in global capital investment are supporting production in Japan,” said Masaki Kuwahara, senior economist at Nomura Securities in Tokyo.

“The economy itself is stronger than I had expected.”

Renewed tensions in Northeast Asia following North Korea’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile also aided the yen, considered a safe bet in times of turmoil. However, manufacturing data from the world’s second largest economy pointed to a modest slowdown.

The latest PMI came in at 51.4 in July, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, down from the 51.7 reading in June and shy of a forecast of 51.5 by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

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