Asian Stocks Up As Biden Signs Stimulus; Lower Yields Boost Tech

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FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, talks on his mobile phone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

SHANGHAI/NEW YORK ⸺ Asian shares pushed higher on Friday after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill into law, and as a retreat in bond yields overnight eased global concerns about rising inflation.

Biden signed the stimulus legislation ahead of a televised address in which he pledged aggressive action to speed vaccinations and move the country closer to normality by July 4.

The signing of the American Rescue Plan provided a further boost to market sentiment after the European Central Bank said it was ready to accelerate money-printing to keep a lid on borrowing costs, using its 1.85 trillion euro Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP) more generously over the coming months to stop any unwarranted rise in debt financing costs.

That and a better-than-expected U.S. government bond auction could support a rally in tech stocks and a rotation between growth and value stocks in the next few weeks, said Cliff Zhao, chief strategist at China Construction Bank International in Hong Kong.

“But in the second quarter the market still (will be) very volatile, and especially when we look at the U.S. dollar it’s much stronger than expectations around the end of last year. So I think the strong U.S. dollar may weigh on some liquidity conditions in the emerging markets,” he said.

MSCI’s broadest gauge index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.45% on Friday morning, supported by tech gains.

Seoul’s KOSPI added 1.12%, Taiwan shares were up 0.21% and Australia’s ASX 200 gained 0.85%. 

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.99%, but China’s blue-chip CSI300 index lost 0.43% as that country’s high-valuation tech and consumer firms dragged.

U.S. Treasury yields were higher on Friday, with the 10-year yield at 1.5405% after falling to 1.475% overnight, its first foray below 1.5% in a week. 

The German 10-year yield was last at -0.331% after hitting a three-week low of -0.367%.

“There might be some disappointment (the ECB) didn’t expand their bond purchase program but that’s largely offset by undertakings to accelerate the purchases,” said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets. 

On Wall Street, easing inflation worries helped support equities. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.58% and the S&P 500 gained 1.04%, both to record highs. The Nasdaq Composite added 2.52%.

Sentiment was also boosted by weekly jobless claims data, which pointed to a recovering U.S. labor market as vaccine rollouts helped lead to economic reopenings.

Analysts largely expect inflation to pick up as vaccine rollouts lead to a reopening, but worries persist that Biden’s stimulus package could overheat the economy.

The dollar gained 0.22% against the yen to 108.73 and the euro fell 0.1% on the day to $1.1975. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, edged up to 91.488.

Oil prices retreated from sharp gains as the dollar firmed, with U.S. crude dipping 0.3% to $65.82 a barrel. Brent crude lost 0.24% to $69.46 per barrel.

Spot gold prices were little-changed, up less than 0.1% at $1,722.40 an ounce.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai and Matt Scuffham in New York; Editing by Sam Holmes and Stephen Coates; Reuters

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