Asian markets rally after Wall Street’s latest record highs

Asian shares logged strong gains on Wednesday after another round of record highs for major indexes on Wall Street.

Benchmarks rose more than 1% in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul. Shanghai edged lower after China reported that its consumer price index slipped 0.5% in November compared with a year earlier.

Economists said the country’s first slip into deflation since 2009 was no cause for alarm. The overall measure was dragged down by falling food prices due to improvements in supplies of pork, which have been disrupted while authorities fight outbreaks of African swine fever, while other prices gained as economic activity recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Looking through the recent volatility in food and energy prices, the inflation data are less downbeat than meets the eye,” Capital Economics said in a commentary. It noted that core consumer price inflation, excluding volatile food and energy prices, was steady at 0.5% from a year earlier. Strong demand was also driving a recovery manufactured goods’ prices, it said.

Japan released data showing strong machinery orders in October, adding to signs its economy is on the mend.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index
NIK,
+1.13%

gained 1.2%, while the Hang Seng
HSI,
+1.26%

in Hong Kong added 1.3%. In South Korea, the Kospi
180721,
+1.36%

jumped 1.5%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200
XJO,
+0.62%

advanced 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite index
SHCOMP,
+0.06%

inched up less than 0.1%. Stocks rose in Taiwan
Y9999,
+0.24%

and Singapore
STI,
+0.57%
.

Overnight, the S&P 500 rose 0.3%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq also hit a record high. Investors were encouraged by upbeat news on coronavirus vaccines and reports that lawmakers and the White House are making progress toward fresh stimulus for the U.S. economy.

The likelihood that distribution of one or more coronavirus vaccines could begin in the U.S. in coming weeks has kept investors in a buying mood, boosting optimism about an economic recovery next year.

As the U.K. became the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program, U.S. health regulators issued a positive initial review of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer
PFE,
+3.18%

and Germany’s BioNTech
BNTX,
+1.92%
.
The Food and Drug Administration will meet Thursday to determine whether to green-light the distribution of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Wide distribution of the vaccine is likely months away.

The S&P 500
SPX,
+0.28%

picked up 10.29 points to 3,702.25. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.35%

gained 0.4% to 30,173.88. The tech-heavy Nasdaq
COMP,
+0.50%

added 0.5% to 12,582.77, marking its fourth straight record high.

The need for a vaccine has grown more urgent as coronavirus cases surge across much of the world. The virus has claimed more than 1.5 million lives, including over 284,000 in the U.S., the highest toll of any country.

Governments worldwide have been tightening restrictions on businesses in an effort to stem the latest surge in cases, stoking worries about the potential economic fallout.

That’s kept investors focused on Washington and the prospects for another round of aid for Americans and business hit hardest by the pandemic.

Late Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said he had offered a $916 billion package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that adds a $600 direct payment for most Americans.

Congress has been stuck in a partisan stalemate over the size and scope of any additional aid to help cushion the financial impact to people and businesses. The economy has been showing signs of a stalled recovery as the virus surge broadens nationally, including slower job growth in the U.S. last month.

“With the markets starting to exhibit some year-end fatigue, any stimulus holiday stocking stuffer will come at a most welcome time and ensure that well-subscribed equity markets will cross the year-end finishing line on a positive note,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.94% from 0.92% late Tuesday.

In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil
CLF21,
-0.37%

shed 12 cents to $45.48 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 16 cents to $45.60 per barrel.

Brent crude
BRNG21,
-0.41%
,
the international standard, lost 11 cents to $48.73 per barrel.

The dollar
USDJPY,
-0.04%

was trading at 104.14 Japanese yen, down from 104.19 yen late Tuesday.

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