TOKYO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian shares inched close to 2-1/2-year highs on Friday as revived hopes for a U.S. stimulus deal eclipsed weaker-than-expected jobs data, while mainland Chinese markets jumped after a week-long holiday.

Traders work on the trading floor of the Philippine Stock Exchange amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/Files

Investors are also increasingly expecting the Democrats to take back the White House, and possibly the Senate as well, in the Nov. 3 U.S. election, analysts said.

A widening lead for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden is seen as reducing the risk of a contested election and opening the way for a big economic stimulus, helping to counter investors’ wariness about a Democrat pledge to hike corporate tax rates.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.15%, inching closer to its Aug. 31 peak, which was its highest level since March 2018. China’s CSI300 index .CSI300 gained 1.68% after the Golden Week holidays.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 dipped 0.1% after hitting a 7 1/2-month high, while futures for the S&P 500 gained 0.47%.

“Markets are starting to assume a Biden victory,” said Osamu Takashima, chief FX strategist at Citigroup Global Markets Japan.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said talks with Congress had restarted on targeted fiscal relief, after calling off negotiations earlier this week.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence about reaching an agreement on the amount of aid in new legislation.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.80% and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 0.5%.

The S&P 500 energy index .SPNY led sector percentage gains, rising 3.8% on the day, after a jump in oil prices due to production shutdowns ahead of a storm in