TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares advanced on Thursday as markets’ euphoric mood over COVID-19 vaccines and the prospects of more political predictability and economic stimulus under the incoming Biden administration overrode a slate of weak U.S. economic data.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3% while Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.6%.
U.S. S&P 500 future rose 0.2% in Thursday’s Asian trade while Nasdaq futures rallied 0.4%.
MSCI’s broadest gauge of the world’s shares covering 49 markets added 0.1% to bring its gains so far this month to 12.7%, on course to make its biggest monthly gain on record.
The rally started after Democrat Joe Biden’s U.S. election victory earlier this month raised hopes for more government spending to support the pandemic-hit economy and for more policy predictability after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Reduced policy uncertainties are helping markets. It will be easier for companies to make capital expenditures,” said Arihiro Nagata, general manager of global investment at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.
“It’s true that stock prices are quite expensive but markets are finding fewer and fewer reasons to sell them. In this environment, you can’t make profits by selling. The only question to ask is what assets you should buy.”
On Wall Street on Wednesday, the S&P 500 index shed 0.16% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.58%, though the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite increased 0.47%.
Traders attributed falls in S&P 500 and the Dow Jones to weak U.S. economic data.
Figures from the U.S. Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims suggested that an explosion in new COVID-19 infections and business restrictions were boosting layoffs and undermining the labor market recovery.
“I think a lot of people got ahead of themselves imagining that the recovery was taking shape. To me the recovery isn’t taking shape until we have a viable vaccine,” said Justin Lederer, Treasury analyst and trader at Cantor Fitzgerald.
But investors also noted markets will remain awash with cash to invest, with the world’s central banks ready to provide more support for the pandemic-stricken economy.
Minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting showed policymakers consider giving markets a better steer on how long they will continue to buy bonds to provide support to an economy under siege from a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
“It’s somewhat out of character that they mention taking this step “fairly soon” when they haven’t begun a discussion of this with the public,” wrote Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at J.P. Morgan in New York.
The Fed could extend of the maturity of its Treasury purchases if its board members judge that deterioration in the pandemic warrants more policy accommodation, he added.
In commodities, oil prices rose for a fifth day as a surprise drop in U.S. crude inventories added to the positive mood stemming from hopes of demand recovery. [O/R]
U.S. crude rose 0.77% to $46.06 per barrel and Brent gained 0.88% to $49.04
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar stayed under pressure as riskier currencies benefited from the increased optimism.
The dollar’s index against a basket of major currencies dipped 0.07% to 91.919, hitting its lowest levels in almost three months.
The euro held firm at $1.1925 while sterling also stood near three-month high at $1.3391.
The yen was little moved at 104.28 yen to the dollar.
Trade was slow as U.S. financial markets will be closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. bonds and stocks will trade on a partial schedule on Friday.
Additional reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington; Editing by Sam Holmes and Lincoln Feast.