Asia shares make guarded gains as Covid-19 cases breaks new records


SYDNEY – Global shares got off to a cautious start on Monday (Oct 26) as surging coronavirus cases in Europe and the United states threaten the economic outlook, even as growth in China provides some support to Asia.

The United States has seen its highest ever number of new Covid-19 cases in the past two days, while France also set unwanted case records and Spain announced a state of emergency.

That combined with no clear progress on a US stimulus package to pull S&P 500 futures down 0.3 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 per cent, but remained short of its recent 31-month peak. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2 per cent, and South Korea’s main index was up 0.4 per cent.

China’s leaders will chart the country’s economic course for 2021-2025 at a meeting starting on Monday, seeking to balance growth and reforms amid an uncertain global outlook and deepening tensions with the United States.

A packed week for monetary policy sees three major central banks hold meetings. The Bank of Canada and Bank of Japan are expected to hold for now, while the market assumes the European Central Bank will sound cautious on inflation and growth even if they skip a further easing.

Data due out Thursday is forecast to show US economic output rebounded by 31.9 per cent in the third quarter, after the second’s quarter’s historic collapse, led by consumer spending.

Analysts at Westpac noted that such a bounce would still leave GDP around 4 per cent lower than at the end of last year, with business investment still lagging badly.

“To fully recover the activity , additional meaningful fiscal stimulus is a must,” they argued in a note.

The US Presidential election will again loom large as markets move to price in the chance of a Democratic president and Congress, which would likely lead to more government spending and borrowing down the road.

That outlook drove US 10-year Treasury yields to their highest since early June last week at 0.8720 per cent. They were trading at 0.83 per cent on Monday.

“We have raised the probability of a Democratic sweep, already our base case, from 40 per cent to just over 50 per cent and have increased our expectation of Biden to win from 65 per cent to 75 per cent,” wrote analysts at NatWest Markets in a note.

“We see steeper US yield curves and a weaker USD as likely to prevail in our base case.”

The dollar was flatlining on Monday having fallen broadly last week. The euro was at US$1.1850 and just under its recent top of US$1.1880, while the dollar was pinned at 104.68 yen and not far form last week’s trough of 104.32.

The dollar index was stuck at 92.790 after shedding almost 1 per cent last week.

In commodity markets, gold edged down 0.1 per cent to US$1,898 an ounce.

Oil prices fell further in anticipation of a surge in Libyan crude supply and demand concerns caused by surging coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe.

Brent crude futures lost 63 cents to US$41.14 a barrel, while US crude fell 61 cents to US$39.24.

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