Asian stocks rose yesterday, tracking a healthy lead from Wall Street as bargain-buyers moved in following a recent sell-off, though advances were limited by worries about fresh virus spikes and the reimposition of economically damaging containment measures.
Traders are also awaiting the first US presidential debate this week, which could prove crucial in determining November’s election, with many worried that a close vote might mean the result is delayed or even challenged by the loser.
Tech firms led strong gains in New York as a new surge in infections forces governments — particularly in Europe — to put new stay-at-home orders in place, leading investors to bet people will use their computers more.
And as the coronavirus death toll topped one million, the World Health Organization warned that figure could double without more global collective action.
However, while many leaders are unveiling fresh fiscal measures to support their economies, US lawmakers remain at loggerheads over a second rescue package, with Democrats and Republicans miles apart on their proposals.
“The doomy mood music’s soundboard remains tuned to growing concerns about rising Covid-19 case counts and whether policymakers have ammunition to react,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.
“In the US, this has centred on whether further fiscal stimulus might be forthcoming before the election.”
Jeffrey Halley of OANDA added: “The potential for a breakthrough that allows both sides to claim credit ahead of the election is still possible.
A breakthrough should be strongly positive for markets.”
Asian markets were mostly in positive territory.
Tokyo, Mumbai, Seoul, Bangkok and Taipei were all more than 1% higher. Nikkei 225 closed 1.3% higher at 23,511.62 points yesterday. Singapore and Manila put on 0.4% each, while Wellington was flat.
Hong Kong rallied 1% at 23,476.05 points, with HSBC surging more than 9% from a 25-year low following news that its biggest investor Ping An Insurance Group had lifted its stake in the bank on confidence it will return to profit and resume paying dividends.
The bank was included in a group of lenders said to have allowed fraudsters to transfer millions of dollars around the world, and on fears it could be added to a Chinese list of firms deemed a threat to national security.
And real estate giant China Evergrande soared 20% after it issued a statement on Friday seeking to reassure investors that its operations were “stable and healthy”. The firm tanked nearly 10% last week following reports claiming it was seeking government help to avoid a cash crunch.
However, China’s biggest chip maker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) tumbled 7% on news that the US has placed export controls on it, marking the latest salvo in the battle for tech dominance between the superpowers.
Shanghai and Sydney both dipped. Shanghai’s Composite closed 0.1% down at 3,217.53 points.
In early trade, London and Paris each rose more than 1%, while Frankfurt put on 2%.
There was some cheer from news that profits at China’s biggest industrial firms grew for a fourth straight month, indicating the world’s number two economy is getting back on track after leaders brought the virus under control.
Investors will be keeping an eye on yesterday’s resumption of trade talks between Britain and the European Union, hoping for a breakthrough despite feuding over a controversial UK bill that threatens to scupper a deal.
London and Brussels say a free-trade agreement must be struck by mid-October to allow time for it to be ratified before coming into force on January 1.
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