Stock market bull run continues, sterling faces Brexit test

December 9, 2020

By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares rose to a record high and U.S. stock futures gained on Wednesday as investors tracked positive news on COVID-19 vaccines and ongoing efforts to launch more fiscal stimulus.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.65%. At one point the index reached 647.78, an all-time peak.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe also hit a record high.

Australian shares gained 0.61%. Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.27% to approach a 29 1/2-year high. Sentiment got an added boost after Japanese data pointed to a rebound in capital expenditure.

South Korean stocks also jumped by 1.6% to trade near a record high. Shares in China bucked the trend and fell 0.68% on profit taking.

Euro Stoxx 50 futures rose 0.45%, German DAX futures were up 0.37%, and FTSE futures in London added 0.48%.

U.S. S&P 500 e-mini stock futures rose 0.23% after shares on Wall Street notched new record highs on Tuesday, boosted by positive vaccine news and seeming progress on U.S. stimulus talks.

The British pound was little changed before make-or-break talks on a trade deal between Britain and the European Union.

“While hopes are still alive that a fresh stimulus package for the United States will be agreed on soon, it is looking less likely a Brexit deal will be made with negotiators from both sides acknowledging a deal may not be achieved,” analysts at ANZ Bank wrote in a research memo.

“The next 24 hours will be critical and is likely to cause market volatility depending on what is or isn’t agreed.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.35% on Tuesday, the S&P 500 gained 0.28% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.5%.

U.S. policymakers continued to negotiate over additional stimulus to help offset the economic impact of the pandemic while pursuing a stopgap government funding bill.

Leaders in both parties remain adamant a deal must be struck but are still working through sticking points, including aid to state and local governments and business liability protections.

The steady march of positive news on COVID-19 vaccines helped lift investor spirits.

Britain on Tuesday became the first Western nation to begin a wide vaccination campaign, and Johnson & Johnson reported it could obtain late-stage trial results for a single-dose vaccine in January, earlier than expected.

Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc cleared another hurdle when the U.S. health regulator released documents flagging no new safety or efficacy concerns.

But the looming prospect of a “no deal” Brexit weighed on sentiment for sterling, which last traded at $1.3379 and at 90.68 pence per euro.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive European Commission, for dinner in Brussels on Wednesday to try and close gaps their negotiators have struggled with for months.

Against a basket of currencies the dollar sat at 90.802, which is just above a two-and-a-half-year low it hit on Friday as optimism about vaccines lured short sellers.

Highlighting the dollar’s weakness, the offshore Chinese yuan strengthened past 6.5000 to reach the strongest level in more than two years. The onshore yuan also traded near its highest in more than two years.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields edged up to 0.9394% on Wednesday. Some dealers say expectations for more fiscal spending could push yields up more in the future.

Brent crude futures fell 0.27% to $48.71 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures fell 0.24% to $45.49 following a rise in U.S. crude inventories. [O/R]

Spot gold fell from a two-week high to $1,858.26 per ounce as the start of vaccine treatment reduced safe harbour demand for the precious metal.

(Reporting by Stanley White in Tokyo and Pete Schroeder in Washington; Editing by Stephen Coates and Lincoln Feast.)

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