SYDNEY (AUSTRALIA) – With the Biden administration announcing a stimulus plan of $1.9 trillion to help revive the US economy, Asian shares rose on Monday as rising COVID-19 woes were eclipsed by the announcement.
With the expectation of a stronger US economy under President Biden and hopes that the vaccine will reduce COVID infections worldwide, global equity markets have scaled record highs in recent days.
Still, investors are also wary about towering valuations amid questions over the efficiency of the vaccines in curbing the pandemic and as US lawmakers continue to debate a coronavirus aid package.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose slightly to 721.96 and just a short distance away from last week’s record high of 727.31.
The benchmark is up 8.5% so far in January, on track for its fourth straight monthly rise.
Japan’s Nikkei bounced back from falls in early trading to be up 0.36%.
After Australia’s drug regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the nation saw a hike in it’s shares. Authorities have stated that their phased vaccine rollout will begin late next month.
Chinese shares rose, with the blue-chip CSI300 index up 0.6%.
“The spotlight will be on Washington DC this week,” said Stephen Innes, Chief Global Markets Strategist at Axi.
Though Republican’s concerns that Biden admin’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal was too expensive, lawmakers from both parties have agreed that getting the COVID-19 vaccine to Americans should be a priority.
Financial markets have been looking forward to a massive US economic stimulus though disagreements have meant months of indecision in a country suffering more than 175,000 COVID-19 cases a day with millions out of work.
“Vaccine breakthroughs make it likely that life will become more functional again at some point in 2021, resulting in higher GDP growth and more robust corporate earnings,” Innes said.
“But increasing global COVID19 infections, new variants of the virus, tightening social distancing restrictions and delays in vaccine rollouts in some places, all increase the near-term growth risks.”
On Friday, the Dow fell 0.57%, the S&P 500 lost 0.30% and the Nasdaq added 0.09%. The three main US indexes closed higher for the week, with the Nasdaq up over 4%.
Jefferies analysts said U.S. stock markets looked overvalued though they still remained bullish.
“For the stock market to have a real nasty unwind, rather than just a bull market correction, there needs to be a catalyst,” analyst Christopher Wood said.
“That means either an economic downturn or a material tightening in Fed policy,” Wood said, adding neither was likely to occur in a hurry.
In currencies, major pairs were trapped in a tight range as markets awaited a US Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday.
The dollar index was flat at 90.19, with the euro at $1.2169, while sterling was last trading at $1.3691.
The Japanese yen was unchanged at 103.77 per dollar.
In commodities, oil prices fell with Brent down 12 cents at $55.29 a barrel and U.S. crude off 3 cents at $52.24.
Gold was higher with spot prices up 0.2% at 1,855.9 an ounce.