Asian shares hit a record high after Yellen calls for big spending

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on January 20, 2021

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.0% to approach its 2019 peak while Australian shares added 0.6% to reach an all-time high

Asian shares climbed to a record high on Wednesday as US Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen advocated for a hefty fiscal relief package to help theworld's largest economy ride out a pandemic-driven slump.

At her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, she said the benefits of a big stimulus package are greater than the expenses of a higher debt burden.

US President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn into office on Wednesday, last week laid out a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal to boost the economy and speed up the distribution of vaccines.

"There will be a large-scale fiscal spending. The Fed is seeking to achieve two per cent inflation and full employment,which still look distant, so it will keep interest rates low forsome time and market sentiment should remain robust," said Yoshinori Shigemi, macro strategist at Fidelity International.

MSCI's Asia-Pacific index outside Japan rose 0.95%, reaching its highest level ever.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.0% to approach its 2019 peak while Australian shares added 0.6% to reach an all-time high. Japan's Nikkei, however, slipped 0.45% on profit-taking.

The US Nasdaq futures gained 0.4%, with Netflix shares jumping 12.6% after the bell as the streaming pioneer reported strong growth in subscribers and projected it will no longer need to raise debt.

The results came after all three major Wall Street indexes posted solid gains on Tuesday.

In the currency market, the dollar was on the back foot against other currencies.

The euro stood at $1.2148, up 0.15% and off Monday's1 1/2-month low of $1.2054, drawing support from a ZEW investor sentiment survey that beat forecasts and the Italian government surviving a confidence vote.

The yen was little moved at 103.81 to the dollar while the Chinese yuan ticked up about 0.1% to 6.4741 per dollar.

Oil prices rose on hopes that Biden's proposed stimulus will lift economic output.

US crude futures inched up 0.3% to $53.15 a barrel while international benchmark Brent futures rose 0.3% to$56.09 per barrel.

Published on January 20, 2021

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