HONG KONG (REUTERS) – Asian shares edged up on Thursday (Dec 31) and were set to end a tumultuous 2020 at record highs, while growing investor hopes for a global economic recovery caused the US dollar to fall further against most major currencies.
MSCI’s gauge of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan rose 0.1 per cent to its latest peak, having explored fresh territory repeatedly late in the year. But year-end trading was typically thin.
The index is set for a fourth-quarter gain of over 19 per cent, which would be its strongest three-month performance since 2009, and a yearly rise just shy of 20 per cent, which would be its highest since 2017.
“A lot of the rise in the second part of the quarter is because the political risk evaporated,” said Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, citing the US election, hopes for an easing in US China trade tensions and the Brexit deal.
Looking to 2021, Craig said investors were trying to balance the potential for rising inflation against a likely economic recovery, and assess whether that rebound might be impeded early in the year by new strains of Covid-19 and struggles with rolling out vaccines.
Chinese blue chips rose 1.45 per cent on Thursday after official data showed that activity in China’s service and factory sector expanded in December, albeit both at a slower pace than the previous month. The Hong Kong benchmark also rose 0.26 per cent.
Australian shares fell 0.80 per cent after tighter restrictions on movement were announced in an effort to quash fresh Covid-19 cases.
Singapore’s Staits Times Index was down 0.6 per cent at 11.22am local time in half-day trading.
Markets in Japan and South Korea are on holiday.
E-Mini S&P futures rose 0.10 per cent.
The upbeat mood, reflected in overnight gains on Wall Street, drubbed the “safe-haven” dollar and supported almost all other major currencies.
The dollar dropped against a basket of currencies, sinking 0.074 per cent to 89.528, after earlier touching it lowest since April 2018.
Oil prices bucked the trend, however, retreating a shade as swelling year-over-year supply led some traders to view any economic recovery ahead to be gradual rather than swift.
US West Texas Intermediate crude shed 0.23 per cent to trade at US$48.29 a barrel, far below about US$62 at the start of 2020, and Brent was trading down 25 cents, or 0.5 per cent, at US$51.38.
Global crude oil markets have lost about a fifth of their value in 2020 as strict coronavirus lockdowns paralysed economic activity and travel, but prices have rebounded strongly from their lows as governments rolled out stimulus.
Gold dropped 0.14 per cent to US$1,89.62 an ounce. The precious metal has risen over 24 per cent this year, its best year since 2010 as investors looked to safe havens and as the dollar wilted.
Treasuries were little changed, with benchmark US 10-year yields at 0.9264 per cent and two-year yields at 0.1250 per cent.