Asia markets build on vaccine, Biden gains


HONG KONG (AFP): Asian markets rose again Wednesday (Nov 11) as investors continued to ride the positive sentiment from news of a highly successful vaccine trial and Joe Biden's US election victory.

Equities were already in the ascendant at the end of last week as it appeared the former vice president was looking on course to wrest control of the White House from Donald Trump and provide more certainty to world affairs.

But US pharma giant Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech provided rocket fuel Monday when they said their candidate for a Covid-19 vaccine had been 90 per cent effective, lifting hope for a move towards normality for the planet.

Stocks that had been beaten down for months owing to lockdowns around the world rallied, while those that had benefited such as tech titans and makers of medical equipment took a hit.

And while the surge appeared to stutter in New York on Tuesday -- the Dow jumped but the S&P 500 slipped -- Asia was positive again.

Tokyo, Sydney and Seoul all rose more than one per cent, while Hong Kong, Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta also enjoyed fresh gains.

Singapore and Manila, though, edged back on profit-taking after soaring Tuesday.

Shanghai was also struggling, while traders were keeping tabs on China's massive Singles Day shopping sale, which will be used as a gauge of consumer sentiment as the country emerges from the virus.

Safe havens that are usually the go-to in times of crisis, such as the yen and gold, were also down from their levels of a week ago, while higher-yielding currencies built on gains against the dollar.

And hopes for a lift in demand provided fresh upside for oil prices.

However, observers warned that any vaccination would likely take some time -- with billions around the world needing the drug -- while the economy remains in trouble and the disease continues its rampage.

"You still have a tremendous amount of uncertainty out there, and while equities may continue to climb a wall of worry, the stock market is still subject to the rules of gravity," Jonathan Boyar, of Boyar Value Group, said.

And while US expert Anthony Fauci called the results "extraordinary" and World Health Organization boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the news was "encouraging", experts warned the data still needed reviewing.

And with logistics proving a headache, the economic benefits from the vaccine likely will not be seen until the second half of next year, observers warned.

Axi strategist Stephen Innes said: "Equities were already near record highs. While the leisure industry particularly stands to benefit from a successful vaccine, it is not yet apparent that a vaccine will accelerate an economic recovery too much more than has already been priced."

Traders are also keeping tabs on Washington where Biden is beginning to put together his team, with a focus on fighting the coronavirus.

The battle he faces was highlighted by data Tuesday showing the US recorded more than 200,000 new cases in 24 hours, far exceeding its previous record and putting the country's total at 10.2 million.

The figures raised concerns of new economically painful containment measures, which Americans can ill afford as lawmakers struggle to agree a stimulus package, while there are also fears any new deal will be much smaller than previously hoped.

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