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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Asian markets edge back up after strong Wall St rebound

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Asian markets edged up Thursday following a rebound on Wall Street, while a report that a promising vaccine trial could soon resume after being put on hold added further cheer.

The Nasdaq led a surge in New York as technology firms, who had suffered painful losses since the end of last week, staged a strong recovery led by giants including Apple, Microsoft and Tesla.

Analysts said the three-day retreat came after months of mind-boggling gains that had pushed company valuations to unsustainable levels and provided a much-needed release of pressure.

The Nasdaq piled on 2.7 percent, while the S&P 500 chalked up a two-percent jump, providing a healthy lead for investors in Asia with the tech sector a big winner, though gains were shallower.

Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Taipei rose around 0.5 percent while Hong Kong was up slightly less. Seoul and Wellington added 0.8 percent. But Jakarta plunged four percent after authorities reimposed containment measures in the capital to battle a resurgence of the coronavirus.

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"The rebound rally might suggest that investors remain confident about the economic prospects where a virus vaccine still provides a pillar of support, albeit with some dents in the armour," said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.

"But ultimately, they remain codified around the Federal Reserve boards' redoubtable policy support," he added, referring to the US central bank's multi-trillion-dollar financial backstop.

However, he did warn that virus concerns continue to play in the background as governments try to balance rebooting their economies against fuelling fresh waves of the disease, particularly with the northern hemisphere winter approaching.

– Vaccine hope –

Hopes for a vaccine were given a boost by a report in the Financial Times, which said the trial being conducted by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford could resume early next week, after they "voluntarily paused" it when a volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

The drug is a frontrunner in the global race for a vaccine. 

The FT said people close to the study had raised the prospect of a resumption once its data monitoring board had investigated the issue.

Still, OANDA's Edward Moya said the delay was being spun by some "as good news that developers are upholding their pledge to uphold the integrity of the scientific process of finding a vaccine". 

Focus is now on the European Central Bank's next policy meeting later in the day, with speculation it could unveil fresh economic support measures as several countries struggle with fresh infection spikes.

Investors are also keeping track of trade talks between Britain and the European Union after Boris Johnson's government introduced legislation that intentionally breaches its obligations regarding Northern Ireland in the withdrawal treaty.

The move has fanned fears Britain will exit without an agreement, dealing a double-whammy to the country's stuttering economy that has been ravaged by virus lockdowns.

Such concerns have sent the pound tumbling and it is sitting around six-week lows against the dollar.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 23,152.36 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 24,506.20

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,270.28

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2987 from $1.3000 at 2040 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 90.95 pence from 90.80 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1812 from $1.1805

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.20 yen from 106.12 yen 

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.6 percent at $37.82 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.4 percent at $40.63 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.6 percent at 27,940.47 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 1.4 percent at 6,012.84 (close)

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