Asian stocks rise, oil churns higher on recovery bets

Asia’s open, however, was mixed with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 0.11 per cent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1 per cent and South Korea’s KOSPI 0.64 per cent higher. — Reuters pic
Asia’s open, however, was mixed with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 0.11 per cent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1 per cent and South Korea’s KOSPI 0.64 per cent higher. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, Jan 13 — Asian stocks rose today, tracking modest Wall Street gains, as expectations that a vaccine will eventually win the battle against the coronavirus fuelled recovery hopes, while tight supply expectations pushed oil prices to a one-year high.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.45 per cent. Chinese shares rose 0.34 per cent while South Korea’s KOSPI gained 0.04 per cent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.49 per cent, but Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 bucked the regional trend and fell 0.12 per cent.

US stock futures edged up by 0.15 per cent.

Treasuries extended their rally in Asian trading, which pulled benchmark 10-year yields further away from the highest in almost a year and caused the yield curve to flatten slightly.

Investors were betting that the incoming Biden administration would ramp up US distribution of coronavirus vaccines, which would allow large parts of the US economy to reopen, said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Boston.

“The amount of pent-up demand is slowly being unwound and over the next year it is probably going to result in one the strongest growth in 20 years and markets are pricing that in,” Essele said. “Right now, it’s a race between cases and the vaccine and the vaccine will ultimately win out and the curve will flatten out.”

On Wall Street, stocks fluctuated near unchanged for the session, not far from record highs. The Dow rose 0.19 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 0.04 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.28 per cent.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose 0.81 per cent to US$53.64 (RM217.05) a barrel, reaching the highest since February after a larger-than-expected decline in US crude inventories. Brent crude rose 0.87 per cent to US$57.07.

Oil prices were also supported after Saudi Arabia said it plans to cut output by an extra 1 million barrels per day in February and March.

Some investors were monitoring developments in Washington after at least three Republicans said they would join Democrats in a vote expected today to impeach President Donald Trump over the attack on the US Capitol.

With seven days remaining in his term in office, Trump faces impeachment over accusations that he incited insurrection in a speech to his followers last week before hundreds of them stormed the Capitol, leaving five dead. Trump says his speech was appropriate.

An impeachment trial could proceed even after Trump leaves office on January 20, but analysts say they don’t expect any further political turmoil in Washington to affect markets. “Markets since the election have been quite strong because uncertainty factor has been removed,” Essele said.

Yields on benchmark 10-year US government debt fell to 1.1120 per cent on Wednesday in Asia, down from an almost one-year high of 1.1870 per cent reached in the previous session after a well-received auction of new 10-year notes.

The yield curve, which had reached the steepest since May 2017 on expectations for big fiscal stimulus under a new Democratic administration, narrowed slightly to 96.6 basis points.

The dollar nursed losses on Wednesday as a retreat in US yields snuffed out its recent rebound.

Against the yen, the greenback fell 0.18 per cent to 103.58. The dollar also edged lower to US$1.3679 against the British pound.

Safe-haven spot gold added 0.28 per cent to US$1,860.51 an ounce. — Reuters

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