Asia markets extend gains; Nikkei ends up 0.9%, ASX up 1.84%

Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images

Asian markets maintained a positive start to the new trading week on Monday, continuing to recover from the global rout that hammered stocks in the first few weeks of 2016.

Australia's ASX 200 tacked on 1.84 percent to end at 5006.60, with the energy sector leading gains, rallying 3.50 percent.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.90 percent to end at 17,110.91. That followed a nearly 6 percent surge in Friday's session. Across the Korean Strait in Seoul, the Kospi ended up 0.74 percent at 1893.43.

Chinese markets also traded in positive territory, with the main Shanghai composite ending up 0.78 percent and the Shenzhen composite tacking on 1.01 percent. Away from the mainland, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 1.37 percent.

But analysts weren't quite sure how much faith to put in the rally after the selloff since the start of the year.

"Markets have rallied on hints of further easing by the European Central Bank and speculation that the Bank of Japan will follow suit," said Angus Nicholson, market analysts at spreadbettor IG, in a note. "But there has been no major change in fundamentals to support the rally, and the concern is if and when it fizzles out, markets could even drop below their recent lows. These concerns are likely holding back a lot of 'bottom pickers.'"

He's not alone in expecting another slump could be on the cards.

HSBC's co-head of Asian economic research, Frederic Neumann, isn't upbeat about global growth prospects, despite the headway made in equity markets around the world. Neumann said in a note that what arguably worried investors the most was "that central banks may have spent all their ammo, leaving us exposed to another slump."

In Asia, however, Neumann said central banks had not quite reached the end of the road.

"Central banks [in Asia] still have a few rounds in their belts, even if further easing will prove less effective than in the past," he said.

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The upward move in markets got some momentum from gains in oil prices. Last week, oil prices halted the nearly17 percent drop suffered so far in January, with the turnaround fueled by temporary demand for heating oil due to the cold snap hitting the United States.

Mizuho Bank's Vishnu Varathan said in a note that despite crude's bounce, things are far from looking dandy for oil.

"Not only are U.S. inflation expectations lowered, but fallout from drooping U.S. shale activity will also hamper [recovery]," he wrote.

Fundamentals continue to point to an oversupplied oil market, and generally warmer winters have weighed heavily on demand more broadly.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures closed last week up by 9.41 percent, while the global benchmark Brent was up 12.71 percent. During Asian trading hours on Monday, WTI futures were up 1.21 percent at $32.58 a barrel, while Brent was up 1.65 percent at $32.71 a barrel.

Herald Van Der Linde, head of APAC equity strategy at HSBC, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that "demand around the world is not extremely strong", despite the rally in oil.

"In large parts of the world, we deal with deflation," he said, adding that deflationary pressure was now seeping into oil markets.

Oil stocks around the region traded mostly higher, with Santos gaining 4.23 percent, Woodside Petroleum up 3.81 percent. Japan's Inpex was up 3.28 percent and Japan Petroleum higher by 6.54 percent. South Korea's S-Oil traded 0.88 percent higher.

Chinese energy plays also gained, with Hong Kong-listed shares of CNOOC, Petrochina, and Sinopec trading up between 2.64 percent and 5.19 percent. On the mainland, China Oilfield was up by 4.78 percent.

Resources producers traded mixed, with major Australian miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton down 1.24 percent and up 0.13 percent respectively. Rio was among the several mining stocks that were put on review for downgrade by ratings agency Moody's on Friday.

Oz Minerals shares were down 4.22 percent after Morgans downgraded the stock Friday to 'hold' from 'add' and cut its target price to A$4.45 from A$4.75, citing the possibility the company may build out its Carrapateena copper project in South Australia.

"We think the market will struggle for enthusiasm should OZL confirm plans to continue pre-developing Carrapateena as we expect by late February," Morgans said.

Japanese exporters were also mixed, with shares of Toyota flat and Honda down 0.09 percent. The dollar-yen pair was down 0.24 percent from the previous session, trading at 118.47. A stronger yen is a negative for exporters because it reduces their overseas earnings when converted back into local currency.

Investors will eye the Bank of Japan's monetary policy decision on Friday.

Varathan said in his note that the BOJ was a wild card. "While odds of easing this week have risen dramatically in the context of oil price plunge and ECB upping the is not guaranteed and further easing is a matter of timing than willingness."

Sharp shares, which soared last week on the back of multiple takeover offers from a Japanese state-backed investment firm as well as Taiwanese iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, were down 2.27 percent.

Elsewhere, shares of Japan Tobacco were up 7.40 percent after the company said it plans to hike prices on its core cigarette line-up.

Takata shares were down 9.79 percent after reports emerged that U.S. regulators had announced a recall of five million vehicles equipped with its air bag inflators. Last year, the Japanese company was embroiled in a global scandal for selling faulty airbags that led several big car makers dropping the use Takata-made air bag inflators in their vehicles.

On Wall Street, major indexes closed Friday on a positive note, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 210 points, or 1.33 percent, at 16,093.51.

The S&P 500 was up 37.91 points, or 2.03 percent, at 1,096.90, and the Nasdaq composite finished higher by 119.12 points, or 2.66 percent, to 4,591.18.

But while Wall Street saw its first week of gains so far this year, U.S. stocks were still sharply lower year-to-date. As of the close Friday, the major U.S. averages were down about 6.5 percent or more for 2016 and more than 10 percent below their 52-week intraday highs, in correction territory.

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