Asian stocks advance on vaccine, stimulus optimism

Beijing: Asian stocks rose on Monday after Wall Street hit a new high and investors were encouraged by government stimulus and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced.

Wall Street’s advance Friday was led by stocks that would benefit if vaccinations and government spending boost the US economy as much as expected.

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Vaccines and stimulus have helped to create an aura of high optimism, John Bilton of JP Morgan Asset Management said in a report. He said above-trend global growth should last into 2022 and regions such as Europe that are at peak pessimism due to vaccine delays should accelerate later this year.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.7% to 3,443.55 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo advanced 1.1% to 29,484.57. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.3% to 28,437.46.

The Kospi in Seoul was up less than 0.1% at 3,043.55 while Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.2% to 6,808.20. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets advanced.

Markets have been swinging between optimism that vaccines might allow business and travel to return to normal and anxiety over setbacks in distribution and concern about possible inflation after massive government stimulus.

Investors were jolted last week by news Egypt’s Suez Canal, one of the busiest trade routes, was blocked by a cargo ship that became wedged into the waterway.

On Wall Street, the S&P rose 1.7% on Friday to 3,974.54. A quarter of that gain came in the last five minutes of trading. That produced a weekly gain of 1.7% after a 0.8% decline the previous week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.4%, to 33,072.88. The Nasdaq composite climbed 1.2%, to 13,138.72, though it is is 6.8% below last month’s record high.

US stocks have benefited from President Joe Biden’s proposal for higher spending on infrastructure. Steelmaker Nucor climbed 8.9% and miner Freeport-McMoRan rose 5.9%.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 1.04 to 59.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 2.41 to 60.97 on Friday. Brent crude, the basis for international oil prices, retreated 96 cents to 63.47 per barrel in London. It advanced 2.62 the previous session to 64.57.

The dollar declined to 109.49 yen from Friday’s 109.69 yen. The euro edged down to 1.1787 from the previous session’s 1.1790. 

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