Asian shares at one-month highs on renewed U.S. stimulus hopes

By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A gauge of Asian shares climbed to a one-month high on Thursday, as renewed hopes for more U.S. stimulus helped restore investor confidence with markets now pricing in a Democratic victory during elections in November.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3% for its fourth straight session of gains to a level not seen since early September.

Australia’s benchmark index jumped 1.1% to a one-month high helped by a larger-than-expected fiscal stimulus announced in federal budget on Tuesday night.

New Zealand shares rallied on expectations of further monetary policy easing after the country’s central bank said it was “actively considering” negative interest rates and a funding-for-lending programme.

Japan’s Nikkei added 0.5%.

Globally, risk assets have rallied since mid-March on a flood of central bank and government support for economies reeling from coronavirus-induced lockdowns world over. Expectations of more aggressive easing have further boosted sentiment.

“It’s another good day for risk and equities have powered up,” said Pepperstone strategist Chris Weston in Melbourne.

“Some talk of fiscal has been in play again, but this has become tiresome and the markets don’t need a reason to rally, they just don’t need to hear negative news. So, in the absence of any, we see equities flying and U.S. Treasuries offered.”

Weston expects more monetary policy stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve before Christmas if the fiscal package comes in too small or too late.

Aiding risk sentiment, U.S. President Donald Trump sent out a flurry of tweets on Wednesday urging Congress to pass piece-meal aid packages for targeted industries, small business and consumers, backpedaling from his earlier stance to unilaterally end negotiations.

Further, new polls show Democratic candidate Joe Biden in a firm lead against Trump ahead of the November elections. Investors see such an outcome making the passage of a new stimulus bill more likely.

All eyes will now be on U.S. employment data due later in the day, which will likely show the recovery in the world’s largest economy losing steam.

Economists predict a decline in jobless claims, however, continued claims are expected to remain firmly above 10 million.

Despite the dour forecasts, Wall Street rallied overnight with the Dow up 1.9%, the S&P 500 gaining 1.7% and the Nasdaq adding 1.88%.

In a sign the rally will extend, E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.15%.

In currencies, the dollar was barely moved against the yen at 106. The euro was unchanged too at $1.1764.

The biggest mover was the New Zealand dollar, which slipped 0.4% after senior officials at the country’s central bank signalled further monetary policy easing, including negative rates, was just round the corner.

The Australian dollar was 0.1% weaker at $0.7130.

In commodities, spot gold was a shade weaker at $1,886 per ounce.

Oil prices were weaker on higher crude inventories. [O/R]

Brent crude futures fell 2 cents to $41.97 a barrel, while U.S. crude was down 2 cents to $39.87 a barrel.

(Additional reporting by Imani Moise in New York; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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