Asia stocks near 2-year high as coronavirus treatment hopes lift mood

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SINGAPORE – Asia’s stock markets opened higher on Tuesday (Aug 25) following a Wall Street rally driven by vaccine hopes, while the dollar found some support ahead of a key central bank speech.

Also supporting the mood were statements from both China and the United States saying -level trade representatives had held constructive talks over the future of the Phase 1 trade deal.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.3 per cent to its highest since early January and sits just a fraction below a two-year high.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1.5 per cent and banking stocks led Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 up 0.7 per cent. The Kospi Index was up 1.2 per cent.

Hang Seng Index was little changed while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 per cent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index was up 1 per cent at 10:17am local time.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.5 per cent as of 11:05am in Tokyo. The S&P 500 Index climbed 1 per cent on Monday.

Markets worldwide were boosted when US regulators on Sunday authorised the use of blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients as a treatment option, helping the S&P 500 1 per cent higher to another record close overnight.

The US Food and Drug ’s move was hailed by President Donald Trump. Shares of AstraZeneca also rose on a Financial Times report that the US government was considering fast-tracking its experimental vaccine.

That seemed to overshadow a rise in coronavirus cases in Europe and the first documented case of human re-infection with Covid-19, where a man in Hong caught the virus again some four months after first being infected.

Later on Monday top US infections diseases expert Anthony Fauci also told Reuters that rushing out vaccines could undermine trials of other promising candidates.

In currency markets, the dollar, which has been sensitive to sentiment in equity markets edged higher, defying pressure from a gain in stocks that often leads investors to sell dollars for riskier currencies.

Investors now await a Thursday speech from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and expect he might address the Fed’s future approach to inflation and allow it to run hotter than 2 per cent to make up for years of undershooting.

The dollar also found support from an overnight rise in yields, which extended by a whisker on Tuesday as the yield on benchmark US government 10-year debt edged up to 0.6590 per cent. That kept the euro to US$1.1795 and the Aussie at US$0.7171 in Asian morning trade.

In commodity markets oil clung to overnight gains after storms disrupted US production. Brent crude futures were steady at US$45.13 a barrel and US crude dipped 0.3 per cent to US$42.50 a barrel.

The firmer dollar held gold to US$1,929 an ounce. A light data calendar in Asia has investors looking to Australian payrolls figures ahead of German’s IFO business survey due at 0800 and US consumer confidence data at 1400 GMT.

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