World shares mixed amid growing hopes for vaccines, stimulus

AP – European shares opened lower and United States (US) futures also weakened yesterday after a day of gains on most Asian markets.

Progress toward rolling out coronavirus vaccines and talk of reaching a compromise on new help for the US economy have been spurring advances on world markets.

As countries prepare to begin vaccinating healthcare workers and others at high risk against the coronavirus, hopes are rising that the pandemic will be brought under control, allowing economies to recover.

Germany’s DAX slipped two per cent to 13,292.83 and the CAC 40 in France also gave up 0.2 per cent to 5,571.17. In Britain, the FTSE 100 was flat, at 6,464.60. Wall Street futures also were little changed with the contracts for the S&P 500 and Dow industrials down less than 0.1 per cent.

During Asian trading, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo edged up less than 0.1 per cent to 26,809.37, its highest close in over 29 years.

The rollout of a vaccine in the US could begin this month, if regulators give their approval. Drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech said they won permission for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, which will be one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population against the virus.

People walk past a bank’s electronic board showing the share index in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

The vaccine is the world’s first coronavirus shot that’s backed by rigorous science and is viewed as a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.

“The vaccine has been the big prize for risk markets,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary. Vaccinations will reduce virus counts, resulting in a “collective demand lift for the world economy, and global geopolitical risk has also diminished after the US presidential election. A much clearer view across the valley to economic recovery should mean more upside”, he said.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.7 per cent to 26,728.50 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.5 per cent to 2,696.22. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 picked up 0.4 per cent to 6,615.30.

The Shanghai Composite index shed 0.2 per cent to 3,442.14. India’s Sensex edged 0.1 per cent higher and shares were mixed in Southeast Asia.

Overnight, the S&P 500 index rose 0.2 per cent to an all-time high of 3,669.01, a second straight record close. The benchmark is now up about 13.6 per cent for the year.

Unemployment remains high as the COVID-19 outbreak widens the gulf between average people and the wealthiest Americans. Payroll processor ADP said on Wednesday its latest survey of private US employers shows they added 307,000 jobs last month. That fell short of Wall Street analysts’ expectations for a gain of 405,000 jobs, according to FactSet.

The report precedes a broader jobs survey from the Labor Department due out today.

Economists forecast that will show employers added about 441,000 jobs in November, down from a gain of 638,000 in October.

Traders are hoping Democrats and Republicans may reach a deal on some amount of economic stimulus for the economy before 2021, though they remain divided on the details and the cost.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers during a House Financial Services Committee hearing that Congress needs to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 0.94 per cent yesterday.

US benchmark crude oil rose five cents to USD5.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 73 cents to USD45.28 per barrel on Wednesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, added 13 cents to USD48.38 per barrel.

The US dollar weakened to JPY104.34 from JPY104.43 on Wednesday. The euro rose to USD1.2126 from USD1.2113.