Market Close Dec 04

Asian markets steady despite Covid surge in US, Europe

Suggestions that Washington may pass a smaller stimulus deal and belief that coronavirus vaccines are coming appears to have buoyed many investors

Asian markets steady despite Covid surge in US, Europe
An excavator digs graves in a designated cemetery area for patients who died from Covid-19 in Thessaloniki, Greece, on December 4, 2020. Photo: Alexandros Avramidis/ Reuters.

(ATF) Most Asian markets rose marginally on Friday amid growing confidence about coronavirus vaccines and stronger indications that the two main parties in Washington are open to a new stimulus package.

A $908-billion proposal described as a 'starting point' for talks has won support from Democrats. That amount is well under the $2 trillion that leaders of the Democratic Party wanted, but some senior Republicans welcomed the move.

Mitt Romney, a Republican who helped draw up the proposal, said: "We're getting more and more support from Republicans and Democrats."

Trump ally Lindsey Graham was also said to have backed the offer, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who kicked back against bigger spending – has allegedly said the Democrats' acceptance of a smaller deal is "heartening".

Trump said on Thursday: "I believe we are getting very close to a deal."

Analysts said the developments suggest an agreement could be reached within weeks.

Wall Street's three main indexes drifted on Thursday, although the Nasdaq notched up another record, following mixed US economic data that showed slowing growth in the key services sector but lower-than-expected new unemployment claims. November jobs data will be released later on Friday.

Markets in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore and Bangkok were all up on Friday. The Hang Seng index was up 0.4% at the close and the Shanghai Composite up 0.1%.

Mumbai rose after India's central bank said the economy was recovering faster than expected and that it had upgraded its growth estimates for this year, from a contraction of 9.5% to a 7.5% shrinkage.

However, Tokyo, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington were all slightly lower. The Nikkei in Tokyo down 0.2% at the close of trading.

Business flat in the US and Europe

News in regard to Covid outbreaks in the US and Europe is still not good – observers say lockdowns and other containment measures are crippling businesses and jobs. But there appears to be an expectation that the world can begin to get back to normal – and the economy recover – from next year once people are inoculated.

The United States recorded more than 210,000 new cases in a 24-hour stretch to Thursday evening, and more than 2,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Britain, France and Germany are among the major economies imposing strict containment measures, while California is on the brink of introducing a limited lockdown.

"Before we can make new gains, there is the usual sentiment tug-of-war between medium-term optimism and near-term Covid despair," Axi strategist Stephen Innes said.

Oil prices extended gains, with investors relieved that OPEC and other major producers had reached an agreement to increase output but at a much slower pace than had been feared.

Investors were also tracking talks between Britain and the European Union on a post-Brexit trade deal as the December 31 deadline approaches.

Brexit deal?

But some of the EU's 27 members – led by France and the Netherlands – fear chief negotiator Michel Barnier is in danger of granting too many concessions to London.

"I think it's quite clear that at this moment in time that we've reached a point where we are so close to the limits of our mandate, that we need a movement on the side of the UK if we want to strike a deal," a European diplomat said.

"I do not have the impression that we are hours away from a deal... what has to be bridged is still quite substantial."

On Friday, France's Europe minister Clement Beaune warned the country could veto any deal that did not meet Paris' demands, raising concerns of a no-deal Brexit.

With reporting by AFP

Asian markets Hong Kong Shanghai tokyo Sydney Stocks steady US stimulus hopes Vaccines Covid