Asian stocks open with guarded gains on vaccine roll-out, Brexit extension

Shares have risen in Asia, shrugging off a weak close last week on Wall Street after Japan’s central bank reported a strong improvement in business sentiment.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 climbed 0.6 per cent and shares were also higher in Shanghai, Seoul and Sydney. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined.

The quarterly tankan survey by the Bank of Japan showed business sentiment has improved sharply with expectations for a recovery from a year-long recession. The main measure of business conditions of large manufacturers rose to minus 10 from minus 27.

It showed rebounds in all categories, in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing companies, large and small. It was a marked improvement from the past several quarterly reports as Japan battled the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.

The proposed $900-billion aid package from a bipartisan group of lawmakers has essentially collapsed because of continued partisan bickering.

But US President Donald Trump signed a temporary government-wide funding bill into law, averting a federal shutdown at midnight and buying Congress time for the on-again, off-again talks on Covid-19 aid.

Given that these talks have been running since July, the market may be bored to tears, but if the stimulus door slam shut before Christmas, it could still change the positive vaccine mood music,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.1 per cent to 3,663.46, its third-straight decline since it set a record high on Tuesday. It ended the week 1per cent lower after two weeks of solid gains.

Treasury yields fell broadly, a signal that traders were seeking to lessen their exposure to riskier holdings. On Monday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 0.90 per cent, up from 0.89 per cent on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average got a boost from Disney, which hit a new high after giving investors an encouraging update on subscriber growth and future plans for its Disney Plus streaming service. The index rose 0.2per cent, to 30,046.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 0.2per cent to 12,377.87. The Russell 2000 small-cap index gave up 0.6 per cent to 1,911.70.

In other trading, benchmark US crude oil gained 13 cents to $46.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 11 cents to $46.57 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 16 cents to $50.13 per barrel.

The dollar weakened to ¥103.98 from ¥104.93 late Friday. The euro rose to $1.2135 from $1.2115.

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