Asian shares and the British pound rose on Thursday ahead of the Christmas break, as Britain and the European Union closed in on a free-trade deal and investors placed bets on global economic recovery prospects.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.14%. Australian stocks advanced by 0.57%, while Tokyo shares rose 0.43%.
Chinese stocks rose 0.02%, but Alibaba Group Holding Ltd slumped 6.28%, its biggest daily drop in six weeks, after China's market regulator said it will investigate the tech giant for suspected monopolistic behaviour.
US stock futures edged up by 0.11%.
Investors cheered news that Britain and the European Union were on the cusp of striking a narrow trade deal on Thursday,which would help avoid shipping and travel chaos on both sides of the English Channel.
Hopes for more fiscal spending and expectations that coronavirus vaccines will become more available next year alsosupported global equities.
The potential for a Brexit deal boosted sterling,which rose 0.3% to $1.3535. The pound held steady at 90.20 pence per euro.
The pound also drew support after France lifted its ban on freight coming from Britain, which it had enacted in response to a more contagious coronavirus variant in Britain.
MSCI's gauge of global stocks was up 0.1%,but moves were subdued in thin holiday trading.
Alibaba, co-founded by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, was the stock to watch in Asia on Thursday as Chinese authorities stepped up their campaign against big technology companies.
Separately, Ant Group, the mobile payments and consumerc redit arm of Ma's tech empire, said it will comply with all regulatory requirements after China's financial watchdogs said they will conduct regulatory talks with it in the next few days.
Dow closes higher
Wall Street ended mostly higher on Wednesday, with the DowJones Industrial Average closing up 0.38% and the S&P 500 edging 0.07% higher.
The Nasdaq Composite declined 0.29%.
A raft of mixed U.S. economic data showed lower jobless claims and an uptick in new orders for durable goods, but also a pullback in consumer spending, falling personal income and fading sentiment as the holiday shopping season nears its end a mid a resurgent pandemic.
Investors largely shrugged off comments by US President Donald Trump that a nearly $900 billion stimulus bill, agreed upon after months of wrangling in Congress, was "a disgrace" that he might not sign.