Asian shares extend gains on global optimism, vaccine hopes

advanced on Tuesday, lifted by the economic recovery, vaccine rollouts and signs that new cases may be abating.

US were closed Monday for Washington’s Birthday, a national holiday. Shanghai was still closed for the Lunar New Year.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.3 per cent to finish at 30,467.75, after closing the day before above 30,000 for the first time since August 1990. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng added 1.9 per cent to 30,746.66. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.5 per cent to 3,161.78, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.7 per cent to 6,917.30.

Despite data that show regional economies have been hit hard by the pandemic, investors are still sending indexes ever higher. Analysts think will continue to rally, cheered by the recent gains on the US and European

Hopes for a recovery are being driven partly by the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, said Prakash Sakpal, senior economist Asia at ING.

Gains will still likely be capped as investors remain wary of newer strains of the variant, which may be more resilient to existing vaccines,” he added.

A vaccine rollout is starting in Japan this week, a nation that’s lagged behind the U.S. and Europe with the inoculations. It begins with about 20,000 medical workers, followed by 3.7 million more medical workers. The government goal is to have shots available for elderly people in April, and for everyone by June.

Government data earlier this week showed the Japanese economy had rebounded from the growth drop experienced earlier over COVID-19, but contracted for 2020 overall. It’s unclear whether the world’s third largest economy can stay on the growth track, as worries continue about an ongoing wave of infections.

Uncertainty about whether the Tokyo Olympics can go on in July, postponed from last year, with no foreign spectators or perhaps no spectators at all, is adding to the gloom.

Still, optimism remains over stimulus measures, including trillions of dollars more aid from the US government. Some companies have released surprisingly strong earnings reports, adding to investor enthusiasm.

Global equity remain on the climb into this week with the multitude of positive factors, including US fiscal stimulus hopes, positive earnings and the vaccine rollout supporting sentiment, said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore.

US benchmarks ended last week at record highs.

In energy trading, US benchmark crude oil added 75 cents to USD 60.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained USD 1.23 to USD 59.47 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 26 cents to USD 63.56 per barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 105.51 Japanese yen from 105.39 yen. The euro strengthened to USD 1.2138 from USD 1.2131.

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