Global Markets: Piecemeal U.S. stimulus hopes boost stocks, Europe opens up

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A gauge of Asian shares climbed to a one-month high on Thursday on renewed hopes for more U.S. stimulus, while investors decided a key U.S. political debate ahead of November elections had not altered the odds much.

FILE PHOTO: An investor stands in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China, August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6% for its fourth straight session of gains to a level not seen since early September.

A policy-heavy debate on Wednesday between Republican Vice President Mike Pence and his Democratic rival candidate Kamala Harris reinforced expectations for a tight U.S. election next month that could result in no clear outcome and hurt stock markets.

Still, U.S. stock futures indicated further gains were in store for the S&P 500. As European markets opened, London was up 0.3% and German DAX rose 0.6%.

“It’s another good day for risk and equities have powered up,” said Pepperstone strategist Chris Weston in Melbourne.

“Some talk of fiscal has been in play again, but this has become tiresome and the markets don’t need a reason to rally, they just don’t need to hear negative news. So, in the absence of any, we see equities flying and U.S. Treasuries offered.”

Weston expects more monetary policy stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve before Christmas if the fiscal package comes in too small or too late.

The back and forth on the U.S. fiscal package has unsettled both the dollar and U.S. Treasuries this week.

Treasury yields fell on Wednesday on expectations of a relief package for airlines, small businesses, and individuals, after President Donald Trump scuppered talks for a comprehensive coronavirus-related stimulus the previous session.

Meanwhile, new polls show Democratic candidate Joe Biden in a firm lead against Trump ahead of the November elections. Investors believe if the Democrats take the White House and both chambers of Congress then fiscal stimulus will be enacted without big delays, which would support stocks and the dollar.

Australia’s benchmark index jumped 1.1% to a one-month high helped by a larger-than-expected fiscal stimulus announced in federal budget on Tuesday night.

New Zealand shares rallied on expectations of further monetary policy easing after the country’s central bank said it was “actively considering” negative interest rates and a funding-for-lending programme.

Japan’s Nikkei added nearly 1%.

Globally, risk assets have rallied since mid-March on a flood of central bank and government support for economies reeling from coronavirus-induced lockdowns the world over. Expectations of more aggressive easing have further boosted sentiment.

All eyes will now be on U.S. employment data due later in the day, which will likely show the recovery in the world’s largest economy losing steam.

Economists predict a decline in jobless claims, however continued claims are expected to remain firmly above 10 million.

Despite the dour forecasts, Wall Street rallied overnight with the Dow up 1.9%, the S&P 500 gaining 1.7% and the Nasdaq adding 1.88%.

In currencies, the dollar was barely moved against the yen at 106. The euro was unchanged too at $1.1778.

The Australian dollar was 0.1% weaker at $0.7130.

In commodities, spot gold was a shade weaker at $1,886 per ounce.

Oil prices were weaker on higher crude inventories.

Brent crude futures fell 2 cents to $41.97 a barrel, while U.S. crude was down 2 cents to $39.87 a barrel.

Additional reporting by Imani Moise in New York and Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Editing by Sam Holmes and Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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