By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, Oct 9 (Reuters) – Asian shares inched towards 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.
Investors were 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.
European shares are expected to open higher with Euro Stoxx50 futures STXEc1 rising 0.1% in early trade.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.34%, inching closer to its Aug. 31 peak, which was its highest level since March 2018. China’s CSI300 index .CSI300 gained 3.17% after the Golden Week holidays.
Futures for the S&P 500 EScv1 gained 0.39% but Japan’s Nikkei .N225 bucked the trend to fall 0.12% after hitting a 7 1/2-month high.
“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 the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and the possibility of supply cuts from Saudi Arabia and Norway.
Still, in a sign markets are pricing in a victory by Biden, clean energy-related shares have outperformed in recent weeks.
The iShares Global Clean Energy ETF ICLN.O has gained 14% so far this month, compared to 4% gains in energy shares.
“Biden seems to have a clear lead following the TV debate and a coronavirus cluster in the White House, which has raised questions about Trump’s crisis management capabilities,” said Mutsumi Kagawa, chief global strategist at Rakuten Securities.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found Americans are steadily losing confidence in Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with his net approval on the issue that has dominated the U.S. election hitting a record low.
The November contract of Volatility Index futures VXX0 dropped to 30.25, its lowest level in three weeks, another sign of reduced worries about a disputed election.
“The rise in U.S. yields, particularly at the long end, suggests increased expectations of a blue wave in the election,” said Koichi Fujishiro, economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield was up 8.5 basis points so far this week to stand at 0.779% US10YT=RR. It hit a four-month high of 0.797% on Wednesday, but has slipped in part due to weak economic data.
The number of jobless claims in the U.S. came in 20,000 higher than economists expected at 840,000, showing unemployment in the world’s largest economy remains historically high and a recovery in the labour market is losing momentum.
Additionally, the World Health Organization reported a record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases on Thursday, led by a surge of infections in Europe.
In the currency market, the dollar was on defensive against most other currencies.
The euro firmed slightly to $1.1771 EUR= while the dollar slipped 0.11% to 105.90 yen JPY=.
The biggest mover was the yuan, which gained more than 1% in its first onshore trade in a week, hitting a 1 1/2-year high of 6.7080 per dollar CNY=CFXS.
Oil prices gave up some of the previous day’s big gains.
Brent crude LCOc1 lost 0.37% to $43.18 per barrel, following Thursday’s 3.2% gains. U.S. crude CLc1 dropped 0.29% to $41.07.
(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano, additional reporting by Imani Moise in New York; editing by Richard Pullin & Simon Cameron-Moore)
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