Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher on stimulus hopes

Beijing: Asian stock markets followed Wall Street higher on Friday on hopes Washington will provide more aid to the struggling US economy.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Australia advanced. Tokyo was off 0.1%.

Wall Street gained on Thursday after President Donald Trump suggested he might be reversing his decision to halt talks on economic aid. Separately, a report indicated the near-record pace of US job losses might be slowing.

Stock prices have been volatile since mid-September as investors swing between optimism about the possible development of a coronavirus vaccine and unease that markets recovered too fast and are too expensive.

The on-and-off nature of the fiscal stimulus discussion in the US hardly inspires lasting confidence, said Mizuho Bank in a report. Uncertainty around the presidential election on November 3 will likely persist not only through to polling day but possibly after.

The Shanghai Composite Index, resuming trading after a weeklong holiday, rose 1.6% to 3,271.08. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.1% to 23,613.20 while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained less than 0.1% to 24,194.68.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.1% to 6,108.50. New Zealand, Singapore, and Indonesia advanced.

Trump said in a TV interview that very productive talks had begun on more stimulus after supplemental unemployment benefits that supported consumer spending, the engine of the US economy, expired.

That helped to fuel optimism that Republicans and Democrats will deliver another aid package after weeks of uncertainty.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.8% to 3,446.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4% to 28,425.51. The Nasdaq composite picked up 0.5% to 11,420.98.

Banks, technology, and communication companies accounted for much of the gains.

Energy stocks rose as the price of US crude oil climbed more than 3%. Occidental Petroleum climbed 8.8%, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500.

A government report showed that 840,000 workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. That’s down slightly from 849,000 the prior week.

Several areas of the economy have been slowing recently. That has investors focused on whether Congress can deliver more aid.

On Tuesday, Trump said he told his representatives to halt negotiations until after the November election because he said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was negotiating in bad faith. That caused stocks to fall by 1.4%.

Trump said later he would be open to aiding for the airline industry and 1,200 in payments to Americans. The stock rose Wednesday in response to that.

Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday about a measure to aid airlines but said Thursday that had to be part of a more expansive bill.

On Thursday, Trump said he shut down talks because they weren’t working out. Now, they are starting to work out. Some investors also see rising poll numbers for Joe Biden in the upcoming presidential election as an indication more stimulus may be on the way, regardless of what Trump says.

If Democrats sweep the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, they say a big rescue package becomes more likely. And that could offset higher taxes and tighter regulations that a Democratic-controlled government could also create.

Stocks still look expensive relative to corporate profits to critics. US-Chinese tensions over trade and technology are simmering.

France reported a record number of infections on Wednesday. Germany is seeing a jump in new coronavirus infections, raising fears the pandemic is gaining in a country that so far has coped better than many of its European neighbors.

Britain is considering new controls amid evidence measures already in effect have failed to contain the virus.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 9 cents to 41.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 1.24 to 41.19 on Thursday. Brent crude used to price international oils, shed 8 cents to 43.26 per barrel in London. It rose 1.35 in the previous session to 43.34 a barrel.

The dollar declined to 105.82 yen from Thursday’s 106.02 yen. The euro rose to 1.1780 from 1.1758.