The Business Times

Asia: Markets mostly up as vaccine, data add to recovery hopes

Published Wed, Apr 7, 2021 · 12:10 PM

[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly edged up Wednesday but gains were tempered as investors took a breather following a recent run-up, though another round of healthy data provided cause for continued optimism for the global recovery.

President Joe Biden gave cause to cheer by saying all adults in the United States would be eligible for a vaccine by April 19, almost two weeks earlier than previously pledged, reinforcing hope that the world's top economy will get back on its feet more quickly.

That came as California's governor said he aims to fully reopen the most populous US state by the middle of June if the current pace of inoculations continues.

In a further sign the United States was bouncing back, officials said job openings had surged to a two-year high in February, well above the level expected by most analysts.

That followed last week's forecast-busting employment report and data showing a strong pick-up in the manufacturing and key services sector.

The string of healthy data - along with Mr Biden's US$1.9 trillion stimulus and US$2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal - have helped world markets climb to record or multi-month highs.


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Recent concerns that the recovery and expected spending splurge will fan inflation and force central banks to lift interest rates have eased for now, with benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields dipping.

The International Monetary Fund backed up the view of a strong rebound by hiking its 2021 growth forecast for the second time in three months, predicting a 6.0 per cent expansion, from its 5.5 per cent prior estimate.


"Early signs show the recovery is accelerating, suggesting a faster return to 'normal' than many had dared to hope a few months ago," said JPMorgan Asset Management's David Kelly.

"While this is very good news in general, it brings with it challenges for investors in making sure their portfolios are positioned for the very different financial landscape of a post-pandemic world."

Wall Street was unable to maintain the momentum on Tuesday, however, and all three main indexes retreated slightly.

But observers were confident the gains will continue.

"Central banks are continuing to keep interest rates so low so people are looking for some place to put their money where they can get a return," Sarah Hunt of Alpine Woods Capital Investors told Bloomberg TV.

"I think that's also why you have stocks priced somewhat for perfection."

In early trade, Hong Kong dipped as it reopened after an extended holiday weekend, while Shanghai and Tokyo also dropped.

Analysts said buying was dampened by the Chinese central bank's move to slow loan growth owing to concerns about the development of bubbles.

Elsewhere in Asia, Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington were in positive territory.

Shares in Japanese giant Toshiba were set to soar on Wednesday after it confirmed it had received a buyout offer from a British private equity firm that a report said could be worth US$20 billion.

The Nikkei newspaper said CVC Capital Partners was considering a 30 per cent premium over the industrial group's current share price. A flood of buy offers that outweighed sell orders meant the stock could not be traded in early business.

Toshiba said it would "request detailed information and carefully discuss" the offer.


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