Global shares hit record highs on hopes for COVID vaccines

Formal start of transition from US President Donald Trump to Joe Biden also reassures investors, pushing Japanese stocks to a 29-year high.

Japan stocks
Japanese stocks were among the biggest gainers in Asia on Wednesday [File: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg]

World shares rallied to a record peak on Wednesday, following a surge on Wall Street that saw the Dow Jones index crack through the 30,000-point mark for the first time as investors cheered a dramatically improved global outlook.

The formal start of United States President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House and increasing confidence that a COVID-19 vaccine would be ready soon ushered in renewed appetite for global shares.

After weeks of waiting, President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday cleared the way for Biden to prepare for the start of his administration, giving him access to briefings and funding.

“The main thing now is that it has become official that the Biden administration will start. And we have ample liquidity from the world’s central banks,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

“I expect the honeymoon between financial markets and the Biden administration and stocks’ bull trend could continue until around his inauguration in January,” he said, adding reality checks could follow, once he is sworn in.

Reports that Biden planned to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary – a move that could shift the US’s economic policy heavily towards efforts to tackle growing inequality while maintaining stimulus measures – also cheered markets.

‘A cracker month’

That pushed MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks up 0.2 percent to a record level. Its index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.45 percent while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rallied 1.7 percent to a 29-year high.

Quarterly fund flows for Asian stocks ex China chart [Bloomberg]
Quarterly fund flows for Asian stocks ex-China chart [Bloomberg] (Bloomberg)

On Wall Street on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.54 percent to an all-time high of 30,046.24 while the S&P 500 gained 1.62 percent, to 3,635.41, also a record high. The Nasdaq Composite added 1.31 percent.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose another 0.5 percent in Wednesday trade in Asia.

“Sentiment is running very hot as we come to the end of a cracker month for risk assets, so it does make you wonder whether the market is starting to exhibit signs of euphoria, and is due for a bit of a retracement in the short-term,” said IG Australia markets analyst Kyle Rodda.

“But for all the risks the pandemic poses over the next few months … market participants appear happy to look through it all, and position for a post-pandemic world.”

Easing the pain

Investors bet forthcoming virus vaccine shots could ease the pain on various industries that have been hit hardest by the pandemic, from tourism to energy, despite the ongoing severe outbreak of the virus in many parts of the world.

US energy shares have risen almost 38 percent so far this month.

In the currency market, risk-sensitive currencies held an upper hand against safe-haven currencies, including the US dollar.

The euro held firm at $1.1901, near the top of its recent trading range. The British pound stood at $1.3359, near Monday’s two-month high, supported also by hopes of a trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Bitcoin also held firm at $18,999, near its record peak of $19,666 touched almost three years ago.

On the other hand, the yen, seen as a safe harbour currency, was little changed at 104.56 per dollar.

Gold has also lost some lustre, having hit a four-month low of $1,800.80 on Tuesday and recovering some ground to stand at $1,806.10 an ounce in Asian trading.

US Treasury bonds were also pressured by expectations that Yellen’s nomination as Treasury Secretary could ease the passage of a potential fiscal stimulus package, which would mean more debt.

The 10-year US yield rose to 0.885 percent, compared with Thursday’s low of 0.818 percent.

Oil prices also held near their highest levels since March on the improved global economic outlook.

Brent crude futures gained 1.2 percent to $48.45 per barrel, a high last seen in early March.

Source: Reuters