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January 18, 2021
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Asian shares mostly rise after Dow crests 30,000 points

TOKYO — Asian shares mostly rose Wednesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 30,000 points for the first time despite an ongoing pandemic, as progress in development of coronavirus vaccines kept investors in a buying mood.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.5% to finish at 26,296.86. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6% to 6,683.30. South Korea’s Kospi lost early gains to decline 0.6% to 2,601.54. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.2% to 26,636.98, while the Shanghai Composite dipped 1.2% to 3,362.33.

Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore, noted news that the transition of power in the U.S. to President-elect Joe Biden will finally begin, as well as his selection of former Fed chair Janet Yellen as treasury secretary, were encouraging traders.

“While the vaccine optimism had changed the outlook for Asia markets hoping for a quicker recovery, the formal transition for the Biden administration alongside former Fed chair Janet Yellen’s expected lead of the U.S. Treasury had only served as embellishments contributing to expectations for a more conducive environment for the recovery,” Pan said.

The Dow rose more than 450 points, or 1.5%, to cross the milestone. The S&P 500 index, which has a far greater impact on 401(k) accounts than the Dow, rose 1.6%, climbing to its own all-time high.

The gains extend a monthlong market rally driven by growing optimism that development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments will loosen the pandemic’s stranglehold on the economy. They also mark a rapid climb for the Dow from its March 23 low of just under 18,600 during the worst of its early pandemic nosedive.

“We are one step closer to moving past the election uncertainty,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest. “People are still optimistic about what 2021 has to bring, from an economic perspective and an earnings perspective.”

The S&P 500 rose 57.82 points to 3,635.41. The Dow gained 454.97 points to 30,046.24. Both indexes eclipsed record highs set early last week. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite picked up 156.15 points, or 1.3%, to 12,036.79.

Traders continued to favour stocks that stand to gain the most from a gradual reopening of the economy, such as banks and industrial companies. Technology and communication stocks, which have been investor favourites through the pandemic, also helped lift the market.

In another signal that investors were feeling confident, the Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks outpaced the broader market, picking up 35.23 points, or 1.9%, to 1,853.53, also a record high.

“There’s some relief that Biden is choosing moderates to fill out the cabinet,” said Barry Bannister, head of institutional equity strategy at Stifel. Bannister also said the encouraging vaccine news continues to give hope there is an end in sight to the pandemic.

Several candidates are in development for a vaccine. Drugmaker AstraZeneca has said its potential vaccine, being developed with Oxford University, was up to 90% effective. Unlike rival candidates, AstraZeneca’s doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute. Pfizer and Moderna have also reported study results showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals received U.S. government approval for emergency use of its COVID-19 treatment over the weekend. The drug, which President Donald Trump received when he was sickened last month, is meant to try to prevent hospitalization and worsening disease from developing in patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms.

U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They will be open for half the day on Friday, closing at 1 p.m. Eastern.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude gained 32 cents to US$45.23 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 44 cents to $48.30 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 104.53 Japanese ye from 104.30 yen. The euro cost $1.1896, up from $1.1878.

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