Asia Pacific stocks edge higher; oil prices drop as OPEC and its allies delay meeting

Stocks in Asia Pacific edged higher on Monday morning as a scheduled meeting between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, initially set to take place today, was delayed.

South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.02% in early trade, while the Kosdaq index rose 1.25%.

Over in Japan, the Nikkei 225 was largely flat while the Topix index added 0.1%.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia rose, with the S&P/ASX 200 gaining 0.65%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded fractionally higher.

Markets in China are closed on Monday.

Investor focus on Monday will likely be on oil prices after a scheduled meeting between OPEC and its allies  collectively referred to as OPEC+  was pushed back, raising fears that a production cut might face challenges.

Oil prices plunged in the morning of Asian hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 6.57% to $31.87 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also dropped 8.33% to $25.98 per barrel.

The moves came after both Brent and U.S. crude futures surged last week to their best week on record as Saudi Arabia called for a OPEC+ meeting, signalling there could be progress on a production cut. But tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia escalated on Friday, and the meeting will now “likely” be held on Thursday, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The organization’s March meeting ended with no deal after Russia rejected Riyadh’s proposed output cut that had been made in a bid to prop up falling oil prices as the coronavirus outbreak sapped demand. This kicked off a price war between the two powerhouse producers.

Developments on the global coronavirus virus pandemic will also continue to be watched, as concerns over the virus’ economic impact have sent markets into a whirlwind in recent weeks. Globally, more than 1.2 million have been infected while at least 65,711 lives have been taken by the virus, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 100.753 after crossing the 100 level last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.68 per dollar after weakening from levels below 107.4 last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6002 after declining from levels above $0.609 last week.

— CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.

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