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Asian stock markets rise on Covid vaccine optimism

by Jonathan Adams
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The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1%, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.3%, the Hang Seng rose 0.7%, the S&P-ASX 200 was up 0.7%, and Sensex advanced 0.7%

Asian stock markets rose for second day Tuesday on hopes for progress toward a possible coronavirus vaccine that might allow the world to revive manufacturing, shopping and normal life.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney rose while Seoul fell less than 0.1%.

Also Tuesday, China reported October inflation fell to its lowest level in a decade. That gives Beijing room to spend more heavily and ease access to credit further if necessary to support an economic recovery that is gathering strength.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1% to 3,377.64 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 0.3% to 24,903.44. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.7% to 25,202,58.

The S&P-ASX 200 in Sydney advanced 0.7% to 6,375.60 while the Kospi in Seoul declined to 2,445.37. India’s Sensex opened up 0.7% at 42,888.24. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also rose.

This offers a ray of hope that the market did not hesitate to take advantage of, said Tai Hui of J.P. Morgan Asset Management in a report.

Markets also were relieved by the resolution to the extended uncertainty about the battle for the U.S. presidency. Over the weekend, Democrat Joe Biden clinched the final Electoral College votes to unseat President Donald Trump, though Trump has yet to concede.

Congress may be split between Democratic control of the House of Representatives and Republicans in the Senate. Investors appear to be encouraged by that, which they hope will constrain a Biden administration’s possible moves on tax increases and regulatory changes.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index closed 1.2% higher on Monday after Pfizer Inc. said early data on a vaccine under development suggest it might be it might be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, though that doesn’t mean its release is imminent.

Pfizer rose 7.7% after indicating the company and its German partner, BioNTech, are on track to file an emergency application for use of their vaccine with U.S. regulators.

The impact of Pfizer’s vaccine announcement highlighted the virus’s economic dominance, temporarily overshadowing concerns over who controls the U.S. government. The number of confirmed U.S. virus cases passed 10 million on Monday, the world’s highest total.

Chevron rose 11.6% and The Walt Disney Co. gained 11.9% on hopes people might drive more and visit theme parks again.

Big Tech companies declined. They had surged during the pandemic on expectations they would thrive regardless of whether workers and consumers stayed home. Apple Inc. fell 2% and Microsoft Corp. lost 2.4%. Zoom Video Communications, whose online meetings allow millions of remote students and workers to communicate, sank 17.4%.

The Nasdaq composite, dominated by tech stocks, lost 1.5% to 11,713.78.

Potential legislative gridlock also makes chances of a rescue package for the economy from Congress likely to be smaller than if Democrats had swept control of all of Washington.

In energy markets, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 55 cents to $39.74 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract soared $3.15 on Monday to $40.29. Brent crude, the price standard for international oils, shed 44 cents to $41.96 per barrel in London. It rose $2.95 the previous session to $42.40.



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