December 29, 2020

Asia shares jump on US stimulus, Japan’s Nikkei at 29-year high

By ellen

Japan's Nikkei leapt 0.9 per cent to its highest since March 1991.

TOKYO (REUTERS) – Asian shares jumped on Tuesday (Dec 29), with Japanese stocks hitting a 29-year high, as hopes that a long-awaited US pandemic relief package would be expanded and a Brexit trade deal supported investor risk appetites.

Japan’s Nikkei leapt 0.9 per cent to its highest since March 1991, while Australian shares climbed 0.7 per cent and futures for the S&P 500 added 0.3 per cent.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index was up 0.1 per cent at 9.25am local time.

The US House of Representatives had voted earlier to increase stimulus payments to qualified Americans to US$2,000 from US$600, sending the measure on to the Senate for a vote.

While it is not clear how the measure will fare in the Senate, President Donald Trump’s signing on Sunday of a US$2.3 trillion pandemic bill, which included the US$600 payments, had sent shares on Wall Street to record highs overnight as it increased optimism about an economic recovery.

“With the Brexit…and the US stimulus deal now in the rear-view mirror, there is a sense of relief that we have avoided the respective worst-case scenarios,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, a broker.

Firmer demand for riskier assets kept the US dollar, which is often seen as a “safe-haven” asset, on the back foot. It was down 0.02 per cent against a basket of major currencies.

Shorting the dollar has been a popular trade recently and calculations by Reuters based on data released by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Monday suggested this could endure. Short positions on the dollar swelled in the week ended Dec 21 to US$26.6 billion, the highest in three months.

Sterling softened to US$1.3462 as investors continued to take profits in the currency following the confirmation last week of a trade UK-EU trade deal that was widely expected.

A sluggish dollar bolstered gold prices, which rose 0.4 per cent to US$1,878.76 an ounce.

Oil prices recovered a touch after falling overnight on concerns that new travel restrictions on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic would weaken fuel demand, and as the prospect of increased supply dragged on prices.

US crude was up 0.48 per cent to US$47.85 a barrel.