Asian shares rise on hopes of rapid vaccine rollout

Reuters SHANGHAI | Updated on November 23, 2020

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A broad gauge of Asian shares edged up to record highs on Monday morning as hopes for imminent coronavirus vaccines buoyed investor sentiment, but worries over the impact of economic lockdowns and uncertainty over US stimulus capped gains.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.38%, pushing past a previous record high touched on Friday.

Trading activity was thin early in the Asian day, with Japanese markets closed for a holiday. Nikkei futures added 0.16% to 25,785 and Seoul's Kospi was 0.84% higher.

The regional index also got a boost from Australian shares which gained 0.81% as the country eased some COVID-19 restrictions. Most of the country has seen no new community infections or deaths in several weeks.

In contrast, in the United States - where COVID-19 infections are quickening, total cases topped 12 million over the weekend and more than 255,000 have died - many hopes are focused on rapid vaccine rollouts.

A top government official of the US government's vaccine development effort said on Sunday that the first vaccines could be given to US healthcare workers and others recommended by mid-December.

Apart from the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns, many investors have taken a dim view of the slow pace of progress over stimulus to boost the U.S. economy.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that key pandemic lending programs at the Federal Reserve would expire on December 31, putting the outgoing Trump administration at odds with the central bank and potentially adding stress to the economy.

“Discussion is only beginning and may take some time if the recent partisan disagreements over the composition and magnitude of fiscal spending are any indication,” analysts at ANZ said in a note.

US e-mini futures for the S&P 500 were 0.25% higher at 3,563 on Monday after US shares slumped on Friday on a combination of dwindling aid for the US economy and rising novel coronavirus infection rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.75%, the S&P 500 fell 0.68% and the Nasdaq Composite ended down 0.42%.

In currency markets, the dollar softened 0.06% against the yen to 103.79, while the euro gained 0.16% on the day to $1.1872.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, nudged down to 92.278.

U.S. crude rose 0.07% to $42.45 a barrel and global benchmark Brent crude rose 0.33% to $45.11 per barrel.

Spot gold rose 0.11% to $1,872.63 per ounce.


Published on November 23, 2020

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