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Asia shares mostly higher after US stocks gain for fifth day

Tokyo - Technology stocks, which have been hurt by the rise in bond yields, resumed climbing.


Published: Tue 16 Mar 2021, 8:50 AM

Asian shares mostly rose on Tuesday, cheered by a rally to all-time highs on Wall Street.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.6 per cent to 29,953.97. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3 per cent to 3,054.77. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped 1.1 per cent to 6,846.20. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.5 per cent to 28,971.04, while the Shanghai Composite inched down nearly 0.1 per cent to 3,417.02.

The slower rollouts of the coronavirus vaccine in Asia, compared to the US and Europe, continues to put investors in the region in a cautionary mode, although South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and other nations have had fewer deaths.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 0.7 per cent to 3,368.94 after having been down 0.5 per cent in early trading, extending its winning streak to a fifth day. Technology stocks, airlines, cruise operators and other companies that rely on consumer spending helped lift the market. Banks and energy stocks were the only laggards.

Wall Street continues to eye the bond market, where yields pulled back a bit from Friday’s sharp increase. Investors are also focused on the recovery of the US and global economies from the coronavirus pandemic. The $1.9 trillion aid package for the US economy has lifted investors’ confidence in a strong recovery from the pandemic in the second half of the year, but also raised concerns about a potential jump in inflation.

President Joe Biden’s pledge to expand vaccine eligibility to all Americans by May 1 should also translate into faster economic growth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.5 per cent, to 32,953.46. Both indexes hit all-time highs, eclipsing records set on Friday.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 1.1 per cent to 13,459.71, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.3 per cent to 2,360.17. That gain was enough for an all-time high.

Bond yields ticked lower, with the 10-year US Treasury note falling to 1.59 per cent from 1.61 per cent on Monday. The mild drop in yields has affected bank stocks, where investors have placed big bets that higher yields would translate into banks charging borrowers higher rates. Bank of America fell 0.5 per cent, Wells Fargo dropped 0.7 per cent and Citigroup lost 1.3 per cent.

Technology stocks, which have been hurt by the rise in bond yields, resumed climbing. Apple rose 2.4 per cent, while Tesla Motor Co. gained 2 per cent. The bond market has pulled tech stocks mostly lower this year, because as yields push interest rates higher, they make high-flying stocks look expensive.

Some economists fear that inflation, which has been dormant over the past decade, could accelerate under the extra demand generated by a surge in government spending. Others disagree, pointing out that there are 9.5 million fewer jobs in the American economy than there were before the pandemic hit, and argue that unemployment will keep a lid on inflation.

United Airlines surged 8.3 per cent for the biggest gain in the S&P 500, while American Airlines rose 7.7 per cent. Delta Air Lines gained 2.3 per cent and JetBlue Airways climbed 5.9 per cent. The rally in airline stocks came as the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1.3 million people both Friday and Sunday, the most since the coronavirus outbreak devastated travel a year ago.

In energy trading, benchmark US crude lost 67 cents to $64.72 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 22 cents to $65.39 on Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 72 cents to $68.16 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar edged up to 109.20 Japanese yen from 109.13 yen. The euro cost $1.1932, up from $1.1928.

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