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Asia: Markets track Wall Street surge, focus turns to Capitol Hill

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Asian stocks advanced on Tuesday following another record close on Wall Street, with investors cheered by forecast-beating US data and hopes for fresh stimulus for the world's top economy.

[HONG KONG] Asian stocks advanced on Tuesday following another record close on Wall Street, with investors cheered by forecast-beating US data and hopes for fresh stimulus for the world's top economy.

But while there are small signs of a slowdown in infections in key US states, the spread of the virus across the planet and the reintroduction of strict containment measures continue to be overwhelming factors keeping equities from extending gains.

Tech fuelled a surge in New York, sending the Nasdaq to a new all-time high, as traders looked for firms likely to benefit from people being forced to stay or work from home.

There was also a cheer for figures showing the US manufacturing sector expanded last month at its fastest pace since March last year, which followed strong factory readings from China and Europe.

Still, AxiCorp's Stephen Innes said: "The composition of China's economic recovery offers a roadmap to the rest of the world that is not especially bullish for a consumer-driven rebound. It's easier to normalise the supply-side of the economy than the demand side in a post-pandemic-shock environment."

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Attention is now on Washington, where Democrats and Republicans are battling to hammer out a new package to save the US economy from the ravages of the pandemic.

With extra unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions now dried up, there are worries millions of Americans will suffer if nothing is passed soon, which would batter the already stuttering economy.

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows had been "productive".

EXPECTATIONS FOR A DEAL 

In the senate, Chuck Schumer said both sides were "moving closer together" but added there were a "lot of issues that are still outstanding".

Reports said Donald Trump, facing an election in November and trailing in polls, was considering using an executive order to reimpose the ban on evictions and push through a payroll tax cut.

Leaders of top companies including Walmart, Facebook, Microsoft, Google-parent Alphabet and Starbucks urged lawmakers to push a deal through, warning of a "catastrophic" impact on the economy and employment if a new round of federal aid is withheld.

While Washington was locked in dispute, there was still an expectation they would reach a consensus.

"There's a big desire from both parties to get some kind of stimulus passed. The way the market is reacting, I think the market is expecting that," Bob Phillips, at Spectrum Management Group, said.

And Rodrigo Catril of National Australia Bank added: "For now it seems that the market is travelling with the expectation that a deal will eventually be struck, so it is a matter of when not if."

Tokyo went into the break 1.4 per cent higher after rallying more than two per cent on Monday, helped by a drop in the yen that supported exporters, and Sydney piled on almost two per cent.

Hong Kong added 0.6 per cent, Seoul climbed 1.3 per cent, while Taipei, Singapore and Manila jumped one per cent. Jakarta and Wellington were also higher, though Shanghai edged lower.

AFP

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