Asia report: Markets mostly higher on vaccine news, Yellen appointment

Most markets in Asia finished firmer on Tuesday, as investors cheered the latest vaccine news from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 2.5% at 26,165.59, as the yen strengthened 0.21% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 104.30.

Of the major components on the benchmark index, robotics specialist Fanuc was up 3.75%, Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing added 2.3%, and technology giant SoftBank Group was ahead 1.27%.

The broader Topix index advanced 2.03% by the end of trading in Tokyo, closing at 1,762.40.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.34% at 3,402.82, and the smaller, technology-centric Shenzhen Composite was also 0.34% weaker at 2,294.15.

South Korea’s Kospi was ahead 0.58% at 2,617.76, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong managed gains of 0.39% to 26,588.20.

The blue-chip technology stocks were mixed in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics rising 0.3% while chipmaker SK Hynix lost 1.4%.

Sentiment in the region began the day positively, after AstraZeneca said on Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, being developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford, had an average efficacy of 70% across dosing regimens.

One particular dosing regime had an efficacy rate of 90%, with the vaccine said to be much easier to transport and store than some other candidates from AstraZeneca’s US-based peers.

Political developments in the US also boosted the mood, as president-elect Joe Biden chose former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury secretary.

That came after the incumbent Trump administration signalled it would make arrangements to allow the transition to Biden.

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“Stock markets in Asia are higher as the positive momentum from the US has spilled over to the Far East,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

“The Nikkei 225 played catch-up as it was closed yesterday for a holiday.”

Madden noted that the S&P 500 finished higher overnight, as the optimism surrounding the coronavirus drug story aided sentiment.

“It was reported that president-elect Joe Biden wants to appoint former Fed chair Janet Yellen to the role of Treasury secretary.

“Yellen’s leadership at the Fed greatly helped the US economy continue its recovery from the banking crisis.

“Yellen oversaw the raising of interest rates in the post credit-crisis era and it was carried out in a measured and well signalled manner so dealers would welcome that style of doing business.”

Oil prices were higher as the region went to bed, with Brent crude last up 0.74% at $46.40 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate 0.91% firmer at $43.45.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was up 1.26% at 6,644.10, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 rose 0.41% to 12,533.38.

The down under dollars were stronger on the greenback, with the Aussie last up 0.85% at AUD 1.3609, and the Kiwi advancing 0.89% to NZD 1.4316.


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