Asian shares rise after last Trump-Biden debate

HONG KONG, Oct 23 (AP): Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Friday after President Donald Trump and his challenger former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in their second and final debate before the Nov 3 election.

Stocks rose in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul but fell in Shanghai. Sydney's benchmark ended flat.

In their debate late Thursday, U.S. time, Trump and his Democratic challenger Biden largely avoided the disorganized rancor of their first face-off in a more substantive exchange highlighting their vastly different approaches to many challenges facing the nation.

At the least, it gave markets no fresh reason for alarm.

"The final US presidential debate was less chaotic than the first but offered little new information to inform the result for markets," Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary. "Meanwhile, discussion relevant to the post-election economic outlook was limited, particularly from President Trump."

US stock futures shifted from modest losses to less than 0.1% gains in the debate's aftermath.

Japan's Nikkei 225 picked up 0.4% to 23,561.96 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.4% to 24,902.30. In Seoul, the Kospi edged 0.2% higher to 2,360.36.

The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.1% to 3,309.42. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was unchanged at 6,174.10. Taiwan's benchmark declined.

India's Sensex rose 0.3% and shares rose in South-East Asia.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gave up 0.1% to 6,166.90.

On Wall Street, stocks shook off a wobbly start to end higher, with the S&P 500 up 0.5%.

Several earnings reports from big US companies came in better than analysts had expected, which helped put investors in a buying mood. Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said progress was being made on talks to deliver more stimulus to the US economy.

Markets have been gyrating for weeks as investors gauge the chances of the Democrats and Republicans striking a deal on more support for the economy. Time is running out to get something done before the election.

The S&P 500 rose 17.93 points to 3,453.49. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.5% to 28,363.66. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2% to 11,506.01.

Smaller company stocks fared better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 small-cap index climbed 26.48 points, or 1.7%, to 1,630.25.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating daily this week on a possible aid package. On Thursday, Pelosi said that progress is still being made.

"Help is on the way. It will be bigger, it will be better, it will be safer and it will be retroactive,” she said.

A piece of such a deal could include extra benefits for workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. A report on Thursday morning showed that 787,000 workers applied for unemployment benefits last week.

While that’s still an incredibly high number relative to history, it’s down from 842,000 the prior week. It also was not nearly as bad as economists were expecting.

Another report showed that sales of previously occupied homes accelerated even more last month than economists expected. Low mortgage rates are driving the action, as is a surge in interest in homes in Lake Tahoe and other resort areas as people look to work from home in more attractive locales, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Big companies, meanwhile, continue to report profits for the summer that took a hit from the coronavirus-caused recession. But they’re mostly not as bad as feared.

Align Technology, which makes Invisalign teeth straighteners, surged 35% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after its earnings report blew past Wall Street’s expectations. Stronger sales to teenagers helped the company more than triple analysts’ expectations for earnings per share.

AT&T strengthened by 5.8% after it reported revenue for the latest quarter that beat analysts’ expectations. Coca-Cola gained 1.4%, and Tesla rose 0.7% after both reported earnings that topped Wall Street’s forecasts.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 0.85% from 0.86% late Thursday. It’s still close to its highest level since June.

US crude oil fell 11 cents to $40.53 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It added 61 cents to $40.64 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, also gave up 11 cents, to $42.35 per barrel.

The US dollar bought 104.72 Japanese yen, down from 104.86 yen late Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.1802 from $1.1820. - AP
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