Asian markets look to rise on vaccine, stimulus hopes

(Reuters) – Asian markets were set to rise Wednesday as investors tracked positive news on COVID-19 vaccines and ongoing efforts to launch more fiscal stimulus.

Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures were up 0.57% in early trading, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 were down 0.02%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were up 0.42%.

On Wall Street, stocks notched new record levels Tuesday at the S&P and Nasdaq, boosted by gains in the healthcare sector on the back of positive vaccine news and seeming progress on U.S. stimulus talks, as the U.S. dollar dipped.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.35%, the S&P 500 gained 0.28% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.5%.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.21%. The dollar index was up 0.08%.

“USD consolidated amid a lift in U.S. equities to record highs and positive signs that an agreement on an one‑week stopgap funding bill that would push off a partial government shutdown,” wrote Joseph Capurso, a strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“There appears to be some bipartisan support for a fiscal package of US$908 bln (4% of GDP).”

U.S. policymakers continued to negotiate over additional stimulus to help offset the economic impact of the pandemic while pursuing a stopgap government funding bill. Leaders in both parties remain adamant a deal must be struck but are still working through sticking points, including aid to state and local governments and business liability protections.

The steady march of positive news on COVID-19 vaccines helped lift investor spirits.

Britain on Tuesday became the first Western nation to begin a wide vaccination campaign, and Johnson & Johnson reported it could obtain late-stage trial results for a single-dose vaccine in January, earlier than expected. Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc cleared another hurdle when the U.S. health regulator released documents flagging no new safety or efficacy concerns.

But the looming prospect of a “no deal” Brexit weighed on investors, as British and European Union negotiators are still trying to break a deadlock in trade deal talks within three weeks.

In the foreign exchange market, sterling was trading down 0.2%.

The benchmark 10-year yield was down 1.3 basis points in afternoon trading at 0.9146%.

Oil prices were near unchanged, with Brent crude futures settling at $48.84 a barrel, up 5 cents. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures settled 16 cents lower at $45.60. Spot gold prices were higher.