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Feb 18, 2019

Morning mail: UK Labour splits, Al-Araibi mistakes, Facebook 'digital gangsters'

Helen Sullivan



Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Tuesday 19 February.

Top stories

Seven British Labour MPs have quit the party over its direction under Jeremy Corbyn, citing concerns over antisemitism, Brexit and the party’s internal culture. Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, has said his party faces an even more severe split if it denounces the leaving MPs as traitors instead of addressing the reasons for their departure. In an emotional statement, Watson said he sometimes “no longer recognises” his own party, as he called on colleagues not to adopt the language of betrayal towards the seven who resigned on Monday. The split is the biggest breakaway since four senior Labour figures quit on 26 March 1981 to form the Social Democratic party. BBC viewers watching the defection on Monday morning received some early, if inadvertent analysis, when a hot mic picked up a commentator saying, “Between this and Brexit we are actually fucked” during the broadcast. During MP Chuka Umunna’s speech, a voice could be heard saying: “It’s mad, it’s mad.” Here are the seven MPs, who will sit in parliament as an independent group, in their own words.
A controversial $423m contract was awarded to little-known firm Paladin to provide services on Manus Island because of an “urgent” set of circumstances, the head of the Department of Home Affairs has conceded. Mike Pezzullo, who denies he was “desperate”, told Senate estimates on Monday that Paladin, which had been a subcontractor at the Lorengau refugee transit centre, was approached for a quote after the Papua New Guinea government pulled out of a deal to provide the services at the last minute and major companies were not interested in tendering for the contract because there was “too much noise around regional processing”.
The head of the Australian Border Force has blamed human error and outdated IT systems for the process that “broke down” leading to Hakeem al-Araibi’s detention. Michael Outram explained the process to Senate estimates by which the Department of Home Affairs alerts the Australian federal police – which acts as Interpol’s national central bureau in Australia – to the immigration status of people subject to Interpol red notices. In Al-Araibi’s case, an individual officer “neglected to send an email”. “This is where the process broke down.” Outram did not blame the individual officer but rather said the department was dealing with legacy systems which required almost entirely manual operation.

World

Facebook deliberately broke privacy and competition law and should urgently be subject to statutory regulation, according to a devastating UK parliamentary report denouncing the company and its executives as “digital gangsters”. The final report of select committee’s 18-month investigation into disinformation and fake news has accused Facebook of purposefully obstructing its inquiry and failing to tackle attempts by Russia to manipulate elections.
Donald Trump has again attacked Andrew McCabe, this time in response to an interview in which the former deputy FBI director discussed his new book and made claims damaging to the president.
Poland’s prime minister has accused Israel’s foreign minister of racism in an escalating diplomatic row over the Holocaust that resulted in the cancellation on Monday of an international summit in Jerusalem.
A Chinese surveillance company has been tracking the movements of at least 2.5 million residents in a province where Muslim minorities have been the target of a far-reaching security clampdown, internet experts have found.
DNA found on a napkin has led to a Minnesota businessman being charged in a 25-year-old murder case. Investigators ran crime scene DNA evidence through a genealogy website then obtained the suspect’s DNA from a napkin thrown away at a hockey rink.

Opinion and analysis

In the role of television host, it’s necessary to skate smoothly along the surface, so it’s notable that Osher Günsberg, one of Australia’s most enduring and successful TV hosts, has so openly chronicled his struggles with and triumphs over mental illness. The Bachelor host tells Brigid Delaney that while making himself vulnerable has been liberating, it can come with pressure, too. “Just getting out of the house can be a gigantic task for some people,” he says. “It might be all you can do to look someone in the eye.”
It’s often claimed that counting one hour’s work a week in the employment statistics skews the data, so that unemployment is hidden. But, as Greg Jericho explains, not counting as employed those 14,500 Australians would produce a distorted picture of the current state of the labour force, which is a complex sector of the economy. The reality is the unemployment rate and employment data do not tell the whole story – and they have never been meant to.

Sport

It is just one case, brought by just one athlete, against a single organisation. But Caster Semenya’s challenge to the IAAF’s testosterone rules for female athletes, which began this week at the court of arbitration for sport, may yet be as far-reaching and profound as the Bosman ruling.
The 2019 Super W season kicks off this weekend amid great anticipation. Rugby Australia has reported a 20% increase in female participation in the XVs form of the code. What will Super W offer a sport-loving public that is increasingly enthralled with women’s sport?

Thinking time: It’s all about the Benjamins, baby

Ilhan Omar made history in January when she became the first Somali American and one of the first Muslim women sworn into the US Congress. Part of a historically diverse crop of candidates elected in the 2018 midterms, the hijab-wearing Minnesotan is one of the faces of change in Donald Trump’s America, a country she entered as a 12-year-old refugee. But in less than two months, she has also found herself at the centre of controversy, reckoning with the scrutiny that accompanies the national spotlight.
This week, Omar was forced to apologise for comments that Democratic leaders said contained “antisemitic tropes and prejudicial accusations”. Omar has backed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, or BDS, which is designed to pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the West Bank. She has said she “almost chuckle[s]” when US politicians uphold Israel as a democratic example. But a recent tweet suggesting US support for Israel is motivated by political donations invited backlash from both parties.

Media roundup

The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has told the Sydney Morning Herald he “had no idea” that a travel company controlled by Liberal party treasurer Andrew Burnes paid for flights for Cormann and his family to Singapore within weeks of that company winning a $1bn contract from the finance department.
Former Bestjet staff say the online travel portal deliberately stalled refunds until customers “hounded” consultants, leaving customers out of pocket for six months or more, the ABC reports.
The Australian is leading with “Households’ $2bn solar hit”, a story on claims that every home will have to pay $200 in rooftop solar installation subsidies this year, “threatening to derail Scott Morrison’s pledge to cut power bills”.

Coming up

A ruling is due today in the defamation case of Sarah Hanson-Young v David Lleyonhjelm.
A teenager who allegedly murdered a Church of Scientology member at the organisation’s Australasian headquarters is due to face a Sydney court for the first time today.

Trade | EU says it will react swiftly if Trump hits it with car tariffs

5-7 minutes




Kirsztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump has promised European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he will not impose additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being, Juncker was quoted in a published interview as saying on Monday.
A confidential U.S. Commerce Department report sent to Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
"Trump gave me his word that there won't be any car tariffs for the time being. I view this commitment as something you can rely on," Juncker told the German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung in an interview. He did not specify when Trump made the promise.
Juncker added if Trump imposed tariffs on European cars nonetheless, the EU would react immediately and not feel obliged to stick to its promise to buy more soybeans and liquefied gas from the United States.
The contents of the U.S. report are expected to remain classified while Trump considers its recommendations, leaving the industry and major car exporters such as Germany, Japan and South Korea in the dark about its consequences.
Auto industry officials said they expect the report to recommend at least some tariffs so that the administration can use the findings of the inquiry as negotiating leverage during negotiations this year with Japan and the EU.
A European Commission spokesman said on Monday the EU wanted to improve trade relations with the United States but would react swiftly if Trump decided to hit EU car imports with tariffs.
"The European Union will stick to its word as long as the U.S. does the same," spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
Any U.S. tariffs on European cars would hit Germany's important automobile industry particularly hard. The United States are Germany's most important single export destination after the bloc of EU countries.
The BDI industry association called on the U.S. administration to provide more clarity and publish the findings of the national security report swiftly.
"The U.S. Department of Commerce should now publish its report on automobile imports quickly, so as not to further increase business uncertainty for companies," BDI President Dieter Kempf said on Monday.
"The import of automobiles is not a threat to U.S. national security, and U.S. President Donald Trump must abide by applicable trade law, and he should refrain from imposing any tariffs or quotas," Kempf said.

Source: CNBC

Europe Markets Closing Report | European markets edge higher on US-China trade deal hopes; Wirecard shares jump 14%

Sam Meredith



European stocks moved slightly higher on average Monday, as market participants continued to monitor trade talks between the world's two largest economies.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished up 0.21 percent provisionally, with sectors and major bourses pointing in opposite directions.
The FTSE 100 in London slipped in value while the German DAX barely moved from its opening price.
 
FTSE FTSE 100 7219.47 -17.21 -0.24% 453672699
DAX DAX 11299.20 -0.60 -0.01% 57200342
CAC CAC 5168.54 15.35 0.30% 62697116
Europe's telecom stocks led the gains on Monday, up around 1 percent amid a flurry of rating upgrades. Switzerland's Sunrise was among the top performers after Berenberg upgraded the stock to "buy" from "hold." Shares of the company rose more than 3.4 percent.
Looking at other individual stocks, Germany's Wirecard surged to the top of the European benchmark after financial watchdog BaFin issued a ban against establishing or increasing short positions in the company's stock. Shares of the firm jumped 14 percent on the news.
Meanwhile, soft drink bottler Coca-Cola HBC announced on Monday it would buy Serbian biscuit and confectionery maker Bambi for an enterprise value of 260 million euros ($294 million). Shares of the London-listed stock were under pressure during mid-morning deals but recovered to finish around the flat-line.

Oil prices

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, with officials from the U.S. and China set to resume negotiations this week.
Both sides reported progress in five days of talks last week, with President Donald Trump indicating he might be willing to push back a March 1 deadline for a deal.
In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, rose almost 1 percent.
Elsewhere, oil prices climbed to their highest level for the year so far, supported by OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and Iran.
International benchmark Brent crude traded at around $66.54 by the European closing bell, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $55.99, over 0.7 percent up from its opening price.

Source: CNBC

CNBC Video | Venezuela's future as U.S. imposes new sanctions.



Tech bankers are making their money in the enterprise while Facebook and Google stay quiet

Jordan Novet



Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat
CNBC
Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat
While big internet companies like Facebook and Google have been fairly quiet of late on the deal-making front, business software vendors have kept bankers quite busy.
"In some ways, consumer internet is a relatively sporadic M&A market," said Colin Ryan, co-lead for Americas mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs, at the bank's Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco this week.
It's been five years since Facebook purchased WhatsApp and Oculus, and about the same amount of time since Google bought Nest. To the average consumer, MuleSoft and Red Hat may not be household names, but they've been huge deals for Salesforce and IBM, respectively, and have created fat paydays for M&A bankers. Private equity firms, meanwhile, have been actively buying up smaller cloud players.
"I think the real heart of the M&A market is actually much more enterprise-focused," Ryan said.
Last year was huge in software. IBM spent $34 billion on Red Hat, Broadcom bought CA for $18.9 billion and SAP purchased Qualtrics for $8 billion. Additionally, Microsoft spent $7.5 billion on GitHub and Salesforce shelled out $6.5 billion on MuleSoft.
Newly public companies are also making big purchases. For instance, Twilio recently acquired SendGrid for $2 billion in stock.
Ryan said that with stock prices surging for emerging software companies, their valuations are a "good currency to go and pursue M&A to grow their business."
And in the future, the biggest cloud providers could get more active in deals.
"I think there's a real opportunity to capture some of – I'll call it economic opportunity that exists up the stack beyond the infrastructure layer, whether in applications or somewhere between the two," Ryan said.
WATCH: M&A activity will continue pace in this market, says Goldman CEO David Solomon

Source: CNBC


Facebook needs independent ethical oversight: UK lawmakers

Reuters Editorial



LONDON (Reuters) - Facebook and other big tech companies should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics to tackle the spread of fake news, the abuse of users’ data and the bullying of smaller firms, British lawmakers said on Monday.
FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed on broken glass above a printed EU flag in this illustration taken January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
In a damning report that singled out Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for what it said was a failure of leadership and personal responsibility, the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the companies had proved ineffective in stopping harmful content and disinformation on their platforms.
“The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture often seems to be that it is better to apologize than ask permission,” committee chairman Damian Collins said.
“We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people.”
Collins said the age of inadequate self-regulation must come to an end.
“The rights of the citizen need to be established in statute, by requiring the tech companies to adhere to a code of conduct written into law by Parliament, and overseen by an independent regulator,” he said.
Facebook became the focus of the committee’s 18-month inquiry after whistleblower Christopher Wylie alleged that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had obtained the data of millions of users of the social network.
Zuckerberg apologized last year for a “breach of trust” over the scandal.
But he refused to appear three times before British lawmakers, a stance that showed “contempt” toward parliament and the members of nine legislatures from around the world, the committee said.
“We believe that in its evidence to the committee Facebook has often deliberately sought to frustrate our work, by giving incomplete, disingenuous and at times misleading answers to our questions,” Collins said.
“Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies.”
The lawmaker identified major threats to society from the dominance of tech companies such as Facebook - which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram - Google and Twitter.
Democracy was at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalized adverts from unidentifiable sources, they said, and social media platforms were failing to act against harmful content and respect the privacy of users.
Companies like Facebook were also using their size to bully smaller firms that relied on social media platforms to reach customers, it added.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Source: Reuters

China unveil guidelines for developing 'Greater Bay Area': Xinhua

Reuters Editorial



BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s cabinet on Monday issued guidelines for developing a “Greater Bay Area” around the Pearl River Delta, in a bid to spur growth and transformation in Guangdong province and the cities of Hong Kong and Macau.
The area is home to some 68 million people with a combined GDP of $1.5 trillion, roughly that of Australia or South Korea.
Authorities will expand and upgrade airports in Hong Hong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and accelerate construction of large-scale oil reserves bases in the Pearl River Delta area, the Xinhua news agency said, citing the cabinet’s guidelines.
Financial institutions in the Greater Bay Area will be allowed to conduct spot and forward yuan trading and yuan derivatives and conduct cross-border yuan lending, Xinhua said.
Reporting by China Monitoring Desk and Kevin Yao; Editing by Robert Birsel

Source: Reuters

Alibaba is the force behind hit Chinese Communist Party app.

Pei Li



BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese government propaganda app that recently became a huge hit was developed by Alibaba, two people at the company told Reuters, at a time when the nation’s tech firms are under global scrutiny over their ties to Beijing.
Chinese government propaganda app Xuexi Qiangguo, which literally translates as 'Study to make China strong', is seen on a mobile phone in this illustration picture taken February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/Illustration
“Xuexi Qiangguo”, which literally translates as ‘Study to make China strong’ and is a play on the government propaganda theme of applying President Xi Jinping’s thoughts, overtook Tik Tok and WeChat to become the county’s most popular app on Apple’s China app store last week.
It was developed by a largely unknown special projects team at Alibaba known as the “Y Projects Business Unit”, which takes on development projects outside the company, said the people.
New York-listed Alibaba declined to comment on whether the business unit had developed the app.
The app’s development by Alibaba, whose Chairman Jack Ma is a member of the Communist Party, is the latest example of a Chinese tech company collaborating with the government.
The country’s propaganda department has released the app ahead of next month’s National People’s Congress in Beijing, China’s top annual parliamentary gathering.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES

The app, which includes short videos, government news stories and quizzes, was created by an Alibaba team. A user of Alibaba’s own messaging app DingTalk can use their login credentials to log into Xuexi Qiangguo. Alibaba said the app was built using DingTalk’s software.
Staff at the Alibaba unit are responsible for developing and maintaining the app that includes news, videos, livestream and community comments, according to the sources and a job advertised for Xuexi Qiangguo on Alibaba’s career website.
The unit does not have a website, but is described in job ads on popular Chinese careers site Zhipin.com as a strategic level project that is in a creation stage and offers many job opportunities.
At least part of the app’s runaway popularity can be attributed to directives issued by local governments and universities that require people in China’s expansive party member network to download the app.
The app has been downloaded over 43.7 million times on Apple and Android devices since its launch in January, according to estimates by Beijing-based statistical consulting firm Qimai.
It was not immediately clear whether Alibaba makes money from the app, or who initiated its development.
Last month, Alibaba executive vice-chairman Joe Tsai slammed U.S. treatment of fellow Chinese tech firm Huawei Technologies as “extremely unfair”, and sharply criticized what he called an attempt by the U.S. government to curb China’s rise via the trade war.
Huawei, the world’s biggest network equipment maker, has been largely barred from the United States and some other countries on suspicion that its products could be used as a conduit for spying. Huawei and China have denied the allegations.

EXTENSIVE COLLABORATION

But major Chinese tech companies have cooperated extensively with governments in China on infrastructure, cloud computing and public security as part of the country’s “Internet Plus” policy drive to improve traditional industries.
Collaboration with state media has also increased in recent years, amid tighter censorship laws that require companies to toe the party line.
Tik Tok creator Beijing ByteDance Technology Co and WeChat creator Tencent Holdings Ltd are among some who have collaborated with state media outlets using their social media platforms.

“The upside for these firms is that their track record of cooperation can put them in a better position to obtain key licenses or opportunities,” said Mark Natkin, managing director at Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting, adding these collaborations were Beijing’s way of maintaining control over private firms.
“The downside is they may get tapped to participate in projects which, on economic or PR considerations alone they might normally eschew, but which may be uncomfortable or unwise to refuse.”
Reporting by Pei Li and Cate Cadell, Additional reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Source: Reuters

RT Video | CrossTalk Bullhorns: War Drums

The oil price has soared this year – and it’s nothing to do with supply or demand.

By: John Stepek



Oil wells in Russia © Getty Images
Russia and Saudi Arabia would quite like oil to trade at higher prices

Every day, MoneyWeek's executive editor John Stepek and guest contributors explain how current economic and political developments are affecting the markets and your wealth, and give you pointers on how you can profit.
Sign up free here.
After a grim 2018, stockmarkets have had a pretty decent start to this year.
For example, the S&P 500 is up around 10%. The FTSE 100 is up about 7%. Even Germany’s DAX index – for all the talk of eurozone gloom – is up nearly 7%.
Yet there’s one asset that has blown them all away.
Oil.

Oil has been a better bet than stocks so far this year

The oil price (as measured by Brent crude, the European benchmark) is up by around 20% so far this year, far outstripping the gains seen by developed world stock markets. Oil is now trading near a three-month high.
After last year’s steady decline, it’s good news for the oil bulls. And there are plenty of fundamental reasons to justify it, it seems.
Firstly, we have the ongoing collapse of the Venezuelan economy. That plus new sanctions on the country have hit the supply of oil coming from that direction.
Secondly, Russia and Saudi Arabia apparently would rather have oil trade at higher prices rather than sell more barrels. The cartel known as Opec+ has decided to cut output by 1.2 million barrels of oil per day. Production in January fell to 30.8 million barrels of oil a day, from 31.6 million in December. And Saudi Arabia says it will cut even more in March.
Goldman Sachs has, in typical hyperbolic fashion, described these as “shock and awe” cuts that look set to drive the oil price higher this quarter.
Third, on the demand side, data showed that China’s imports of oil rose by more than expected. And investors are feeling upbeat again about the outcome on the China-US trade talks.
All positive for the oil bull arguments.
That said, there are also plenty of ways to make a bearish case right now. And if the oil price had gone down, then maybe those are the facts I’d be highlighting today instead.
For example, Chinese demand might have been higher than expected. But at this price, US shale-oil producers are pumping as fast as they can and, as a result, US crude oil stocks are at their highest since November 2017.
As for optimism on trade talks – the markets are apparently optimistic today, but last week the pessimists had the upper hand. My view is that the trade talks will be a bit like Brexit – full of fudge and brinksmanship, and very prolonged indeed. So the market is going to be experiencing highs and lows like this for a long while, with the actual economic impact probably very hard to judge.
And don’t get us started on the longer term bear arguments. Plastic use is being cut back aggressively now that straws are public enemy number one. Electric cars are just around the corner. If you want to tell a compelling story about stranded assets, it’s really not that difficult.

The stories that we tell ourselves

I’m not saying that fundamentals don’t matter – of course they do. But on a day-to-day basis, the oil price is not typically reacting to the actual number of barrels being produced and consumed. And on different days, different factors will matter more or less.
For a start, being priced in US dollars means that the oil price will tend to slip when the US dollar is strong and vice versa. (This is not a cast-iron correlation – few are – but it’s always worth remembering about any commodity priced in dollars).
Secondly – and I think, most importantly to the environment right now – oil is a “risk-on” asset. When investors are worried about growth, they sell oil. And this process works in reverse too (it’s “reflexive” as George Soros might put it) – when investors see oil fall, they get worried about growth.
Last year, the oil price started to slide hard in October. At that point Brent Crude was trading above $86 a barrel. At the time, the reason seemed pretty simple: at $80-plus, no one had any reason to moderate supply. Everyone from Opec producers to shale explorers was working as hard as they could. In effect, there were plenty of relatively benign reasons for the oil price to fall.
But stockmarkets began to fall at the same time. This was just a week or so after the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, had lauded the strength of the US economy.
What gives? Put simply, oil and stockmarkets were spooked by the same thing – the idea that the Fed really wasn’t going to stop raising interest rates, and also had no plans to end quantitative tightening (QT).
That set up a fresh narrative arc (“narratives” are all the rage at the moment – it’s simply the recognition that humans like stories, and at any given moment, one story about the markets is more dominant than all the rest).
In this particular story, Fed policy was already too tight. The economy must be due a recession. We were heading into a post-tax-cuts earnings downturn. In short, investors decided it was time to pay more attention to bad news than to good news.
And all of that is primarily about the fear of the Fed.
What’s happened this year so far is that the Fed story has changed. Markets are no longer as concerned about the indomitable Jerome Powell, because he has thrown in his hand already.
The big issue now is that – as is often the case in the first quarter of the year – the economic data is looking ropey. We’ve had some weak jobs data. China is opaque as ever, but we know it’s been slowing down.
However, conditions are ripe. The market is already no longer afraid of the Fed. Now you just need some half-decent economic or political data, and we could easily get back to “fear of missing out” (FOMO) mode.
Fundamentals? When you have central banks in charge of credit allocation, they only matter so much I’m afraid.

Source: MoneyWeek

Asia Markets Closing Report: China markets soar as trade talks move to Washington

Eustance Huang



Mainland Chinese shares were the biggest gainers in Asia on Monday, a day which also saw the other major stock markets in the region advance, with trade talks between the U.S. and China set to continue in Washington this week after high-level meetings in Beijing concluded last week.
The Shanghai composite jumped around 2.68 percent to close at about 2,754.36 while the Shenzhen component rose 3.954 percent to finish at approximately 8,446.92. The Shenzhen composite advanced 3.705 percent to close at around 1,440.95.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also gained about 1.5 percent, as of its final hour of trading.
Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.82 percent to close at 21,281.85, while the Topix also advanced 1.56 percent to finish its trading day at 1,601.96. Shares of Fast Retailing, the company behind the Uniqlo chain of apparel stores, surged 3.9 percent.
Meanwhile, the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.67 percent to close at 2,210.89 as industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics saw its shares rise 0.33 percent.
Australia's ASX 200 rose 0.39 percent to close at 6,089.80 as most sectors saw gains. The energy subindex rose 1.57 percent as shares of the oil companies advanced. Santos traded 1.19 percent higher, Woodside Petroleum gained 2.3 percent and Beach Energy advanced 3.18 percent.
Earlier on Monday, the Australian government announced that the national parliament's computer network had been hit by an attack in February. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament that "cyber experts believe that a sophisticated state actor is responsible for this malicious activity."
Over in Singapore, DBS gained 1.86 percent in afternoon trade after the bank announced a 28 percent increase in net profit in 2018.
Despite Monday's gains, one strategist warned that the markets are "risky" at the moment.
"Look at how weak markets were on Friday, look how strong they are today. They're very volatile and this volatility that we're seeing on a day-to-day basis is actually, you know, a sign that people are not that sure what's ... going on," Mark Jolley, global strategist at CCB International Securities, told CNBC's "Street Signs."

Trade talks set to continue

Following a round of negotiations in Beijing last week, trade talks between the U.S. and China are set to continue in Washington this week. Both parties had reported progress following the five days of negotiations last week.
U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House news conference, said Washington was closer than ever before to "having a real trade deal" with Beijing and that he would be "honored" to remove tariffs if an agreement can be reached. He added, however, that the talks were "very complicated."
Trump also reiterated the possibility of extending the Mar. 1 deadline. Additional tariffs on Chinese goods might go into effect if Washington and Beijing fail to reach a deal by the date.
"U.S. and Chinese news are reporting slightly different rates of progress on key trade talks held on Friday and over the weekend," strategists from Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a note.
"I think all of this is just a lot of political theater," Kim Iskyan, analyst at Stansberry Pacific Research, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. "I think that (it) doesn't suit either party to really come to any sort of definitive conclusion anytime soon. But markets like to hear ... all the chatter."
Iskyan said the two sides would likely end up "kicking ... the whole can down the road again," adding that the deadline in early March "was kind of bogus in the first place."
 
NIKKEI Nikkei 225 Index 21281.85 381.22 1.82%
HSI Hang Seng Index 28347.01 446.17 1.60%
ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 6089.80 23.70 0.39%
SHANGHAI Shanghai 2754.36 71.97 2.68%
KOSPI KOSPI Index 2210.89 14.80 0.67%
CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX 7865.78 80.67 1.04%

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.773 after seeing highs above 97.3 last week.
The Japanese yen, widely viewed as a safe-haven currency, traded at 110.55 against the dollar after seeing lows of around 111 in the previous week. The Australian dollar was at $0.7155 after seeing lows of about $0.705 last week.
Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours. International benchmark Brent crude futures returned to positive territory after an earlier slip, gaining 0.59 percent to $66.64 per barrel. Meanwhile, U.S. crude futures gained 0.88 percent to $56.08 per barrel.
— Reuters contributed to this report.

Source: CNBC