Asian markets begin year higher after new records on Wall Street

Asian markets begin year higher after new records on Wall Street

Stocks start strong in Hong Kong, Seoul, Sydney, but Nikkei slips amid possible state of emergency around Tokyo

BEIJING — Asian stock markets rose Monday on 2021’s first trading day, boosted by optimism about the rollout of coronavirus vaccines after Wall Street ended the year on a new high.

Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney advanced. Tokyo declined.

Optimism about vaccines has countered concern about rising infection numbers in the United States and some other countries and conflict over economic aid in Washington, said Stephen Innes of Axi in a report.

Traders are “perhaps a bit over-eager” but believe vaccines will “provide the ultimate economic kick-start, offering a massive booster shot to corporate profits,” said Innes.

The Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, 1.02% gained 0.9% and the Hang Seng HSI, 0.73% in Hong Kong gained 0.8%.

The Nikkei 225 NIK, -0.68% in Tokyo was off 0.5% after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the government is considering declaring a state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures due to surging virus caseloads. Suga asked restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. and said it would be difficult to restart a controversial travel promotion program that was suspended last month. He also said the government would expedite approval of coronavirus vaccines and begin providing injections in February.

The Kospi 180721, 2.47% in Seoul rose 2.3% and Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +1.47% added 1.4% to 6,661.10. Stocks in Singapore STI, 0.13% and Jakarta JAKIDX, 1.33% also advanced.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index SPX, +0.64% rose 0.6% to a high of 3,756.07 on Thursday, its final trading day of 2020. It ended the year up 16.3%, or a total return of about 18.4% with dividends.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.65% rose 0.7% to a record 30,606.48. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +0.14% added 0.1% to 12,888.28.

Vaccine development by U.S., European and Chinese producers has helped investor optimism that a return to normal might be closer after the global economy’s worst decline since the 1930s.

Governments might not throw as much stimulus at their economies as they did last year, but policy is “still at a very loose setting,” which supports stock prices and lending, said Kerry Craig of JP Morgan Asset Management in a report.

“Investors should look through the bumpier start to the new economic cycle and focus on the improved earnings outlook,” Craig said.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude CLG21, 2.16% gained 56 cents to $49.08 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 12 cents on Thursday to $48.52. Brent crude BRNH21, 2.37%, used to price international oils, added 67 cents to $52.47 per barrel in London. It rose 17 cents the previous session to $51.80.

The dollar USDJPY, -0.24% declined to 102.99 yen from Thursday’s 103.27.

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