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Wednesday January 20th, 2021 6:04PM

Asian shares mixed as traders await details of Biden plan

By The Associated Press
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Shares were mostly higher Thursday in Asia as traders waited to see details of President-elect Joe Biden’s plan for helping the economy recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Benchmarks rose in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney but fell in Shanghai.

U.S. futures were trading slightly higher after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

Democrats and even some Republicans concluded that Trump incited an insurrection after he encouraged a mob of loyalists who went on to attack the Capitol last week. The voting concluded after the close of regular trading.

Investors have been looking past such political turmoil for the most part, though, focusing instead on expectations for a stronger economy ahead. President-elect Joe Biden is expected later Thursday to release details of his plan to support the economy. They could include bigger cash payments to most Americans.

China reported Thursday that its exports rose in 2020 despite pressure from the coronavirus and a tariff war with Washington, boosting its politically volatile trade surplus to $535 billion, one of the highest ever reported.

Exports increased 3.6% over 2019 to $2.6 trillion, an improvement on the previous year’s 0.5% gain. Imports edged down 1.1% to just over $2 trillion, but growth was strong in the second half after China became the first major economy to revive following the pandemic.

“With President-elect Biden shooting for the moon on stimulus, and China data suggesting its economic juggernaut remains on track, financial markets should enter the last part of the week on a positive frame of mind," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index climbed 1.7% to 28,828.10 after a report showed strong growth in machinery orders in December, suggesting robust corporate spending despite a marked worsening of the pandemic.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.5% to 28,375.25. South Korea's Kospi edged 0.1% lower to 3,142.57. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4% to 6,713.30.

The Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.3% to 3,588.28.

In U.S. trading on Wednesday, the S&P 500 inched up 0.2% to 3,809.84 after flipping between small gains and losses.

Treasury yields stalled after rising sharply since the beginning of the year. The benchmark 10-year yield dipped as concerns calmed that the Federal Reserve may curtail its purchases of Treasurys. Expectations of higher government spending and the possibility of inflation have helped drive bond yields higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell less than 0.1% to 31,060.47. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 0.4% to 13,128.95. Stocks of smaller companies also pulled back from their big recent rally. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks slid 15.99 points, or 0.8%, to 2,111.97.

Markets around the world have rushed higher recently on building optimism that a healthier economy is on the way because of the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and the prospect for more stimulus from a U.S. government soon to be run by Democrats.

Some of the biggest action has been in the bond market, where expectations for increased federal borrowing, economic growth and inflation have pushed longer-term Treasury yields to their highest levels since last spring.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 1.10%. Analysts said statements from two Federal Reserve officials a day earlier helped to calm concerns that it may curtail its purchases of Treasurys. Those purchases have helped keep rates low in hopes of boosting financial markets and the economy.

The concerns are reminiscent of the 2013 “taper tantrum,” when markets tumbled after the Fed said it expected to slow bond purchases as the economy recovered.

Low rates have been one of the main underpinnings for the stock market’s rise to records, even as much of the economy still struggles under the worsening pandemic. The 10-year yield has been spurting higher, up from 0.90% on Jan. 4, the day before two runoff elections in Georgia gave control of the Senate — and thus Washington — to Democrats.

The Fed has had the freedom to keep short-term rates at nearly zero in part because inflation has remained weak. A report on Wednesday showed that prices at the consumer level were 1.4% higher in December from a year earlier, slightly higher than economists expected.

In other trading Thursday, benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 6 cents to $52.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed 30 cents to $52.91 per barrel on Wednesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, lost 14 cents to $55.92 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar strengthened to 104.03 Japanese yen from 103.89 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.2147 from $1.2156.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets
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