Asia markets extend global rally on vaccine hope

Investors look at computer screens showing stock information at a brokerage in Shanghai August 13, 2015. — Reuters pic
Investors look at computer screens showing stock information at a brokerage in Shanghai August 13, 2015. — Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Nov 10 — Asian markets rallied today on news that a vaccine candidate had been 90 per cent effective in treating patients, fuelling hopes it could begin to be rolled out this year and bring an end to a pandemic that has battered the world economy.

Wall Street and European shares soared with oil prices, while safe-haven assets tumbled yesterday when US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced results of their Phase 3 trial.

The news provided a massive boost to investors who were already in a strong buying mood after Joe Biden’s US election win at the weekend removed a large amount of uncertainty from trading floors.

“The clearing of the election fog has permitted underlying market fundamentals to come back into focus and the most recent vaccine news suggests a ‘return to normality’ should be coming sooner rather than later,” said Seema Shah of Principal Global Investors.

“All the chips are starting to line up, and market sentiment may be in the early stages of a burst of positive energy.”

Hong Kong and Mumbai put on more than one per cent, Singapore and Bangkok each soared more than three per cent and Jakarta gained two per cent. Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul and Wellington also posted gains. 

Manila rocketed more than five per cent, with traders also welcoming signs the Philippine economy is improving despite a third straight quarter of contraction.

Shanghai and Taipei fell.

In early European trade today, London, Paris and Frankfurt each built on their yesterday surge.

Gains were led by companies that have been hammered for most of the year by lockdowns, particularly airlines. Japan Airlines cruised more than 20 per cent higher, Qantas jumped more than eight per cent and Cathay Pacific piled on 13 per cent, as did Singapore Airlines.

But tech firms which have benefitted from people being kept at home retreated, as did medical equipment makers. Gaming giants Sony and Nintendo also tanked, just as the sector prepares for the holiday season and the next era of computer consoles, with Microsoft putting its new Xbox on sale.

Oil prices edged up after yesterday’s surge, while the safe-haven yen edged back slightly — although it was still well off its levels just above 103 to the dollar earlier yesterday. Gold struggled to battle back after losing five per cent.

‘Ray of hope’

Tai Hui, at JP Morgan Asset Management, said in a note: “This offers a ray of hope that the market did not hesitate to take advantage of. Investors’ reaction... is in line with our expectations of what would happen if there are signals that some normality can return to our lives.”

The breakthrough on a vaccine comes as several European nations endure fresh lockdowns to contain a second wave of the virus, which has infected more than 50 million people globally and killed more than a million.

It has fanned hopes that the world economy can begin to get back on track after a year in which it has been shattered with tens of million left jobless, companies going under and nations plunging into recession.

“The bull market just received ‘a by George, we’ve done it’ shot in the arm as the vaccine will genuinely be a game-changing panacea for global healthcare concerns,” said Axi strategist Stephen Innes.

However, he warned that while there was much euphoria, there were fears US lawmakers would now pass a more modest stimulus.

Biden’s win provided a boost to investors looking for less chaos after four years of Donald Trump, and Republican success in holding on to the Senate will limit attempts by Democrats to push through big tax and regulatory changes.

However, they have always been against a new big-spending package and are unlikely to budge. Analysts pointed out that forecast-beating US jobs data from last month provided them a reason to be reticent while the vaccine new could add to that.

“Those heartening developments on the vaccine front are giving way to worries that lawmakers will pass a smaller stimulus package, and the next move for central bankers will not be lower,” Innes added.

“It is just not the vaccine that will hold back US infrastructure spending. There is also some cynical objection from bipartisan politicians who are not keen to do anything to boost a political rival.”

And CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson offered a note of caution. “One swallow does not make a summer, and there still remains some way to go before life as we knew it a year ago, can return to any semblance of normal, in the short or medium term,” he said in a note.

Key figures around 0820 GMT

Tokyo — Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 per cent at 24.905.59 (close)

Hong Kong — Hang Seng: UP 1.1 per cent at 26,301.48 (close)

Shanghai — Composite: DOWN 0.4 per cent at 3,360.15 (close)

London — FTSE 100: UP 0.2 per cent at 6,198.29

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1825 from US$1.1814 at 2230 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.05 yen from 105.31 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.3170 from US$1.3160

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 per cent at US$40.38 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.5 per cent at US$42.62 per barrel

New York — Dow: UP 2.95 per cent at 29,157.97 (close)

Bloomberg News contributed to this story — AFP

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