World shares advance as traders await details of Biden plan

AP – Stocks advanced in most global markets yesterday as traders waited to see details of President-elect Joe Biden’s plan for helping the United States (US) economy recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Benchmarks rose in London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong but fell in Shanghai.

US futures were trading slightly higher after the US House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection”.

Democrats and even some Republicans concluded that Trump incited an insurrection after he encouraged a mob of loyalists who went on to attack the Capitol last week. The voting concluded after the close of regular trading.

For the most part, investors have been looking past such political turmoil and focussing instead on expectations for a stronger economy ahead.

Markets got a boost from China’s report that its exports rose in 2020 despite pressure from the coronavirus and a tariff war with Washington. Exports increased 3.6 per cent over 2019 to USD2.6 trillion, an improvement on the previous year’s 0.5 per cent gain. Imports edged down 1.1 per cent to just over USD2 trillion, but growth was strong in the second half after China became the first major economy to revive following the pandemic.

Stronger growth in the world’s two largest economies would bode well for the rest of the world, especially export-dependent nations in Asia.

A currency trader passes by monitors showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index and foreign exchange rate at the KB Kookmin Bank branch in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

“With President-elect Biden shooting for the moon on stimulus, and China data suggesting its economic juggernaut remains on track, financial markets should enter the last part of the week on a positive frame of mind,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.

Germany’s DAX picked up 0.4 per cent to 13,992.29 and the CAC 40 in Paris rose 0.3 per cent to 5,676.79. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.5 per cent to 6,778.32. The future contract for the S&P 500 edged 0.2 per cent higher while that for the Dow industrials climbed 0.3 per cent.

During Asia’s trading day, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.9 per cent to 28,698.26 after a report showed strong growth in machinery orders in December, suggesting robust corporate spending despite a marked worsening of the pandemic.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.9 per cent to 28,496.86. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 0.7 per cent to 3,149.93. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4 per cent to 6,715.30.

The Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.9 per cent to 3,565.90 despite the upbeat trade data, as authorities reported a new surge in coronavirus cases in its frozen northeast. China yesterday also reported its first new death attributed to COVID-19 in months.

Nearly a year after the pandemic first began, China has put more than 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Hebei, Beijing and other areas in hopes of stemming infections ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

In US trading on Wednesday, the S&P 500 inched up 0.2 per cent to 3,809.84. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell less than 0.1 per cent to 31,060.47. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 0.4 per cent to 13,128.95. Stocks of smaller companies pulled back from their big recent rally. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks lost 0.8 per cent to 2,111.97.

World markets have rushed higher recently in anticipation that economies will recover with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and more stimulus from a US government soon to be run by Democrats.

Expectations of higher government spending and the possibility of inflation have helped push longer-term Treasury yields to their highest levels since last spring.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 1.10 per cent yesterday.

In other trading, benchmark US crude oil lost 26 cents to USD52.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed 30 cents to USD52.91 per barrel on Wednesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, lost 36 cents to USD55.70 per barrel.

The US dollar strengthened to JPY104.01 from JPY103.89 late Wednesday. The euro fell to USD1.2152 from USD1.2156.