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Asian shares surge; S&P-500 at record high

Asian shares surge; S&P-500 at record high
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Asian shares surge; S&P-500 at record high

Highlights

Trading begins on a strong footing despite virus woes

Tokyo: Asian stocks started out the week on a strong footing after the Standard & Poor's 500 hit a fresh high on Friday, with strong robust from Japan and China fuelling optimism over economic recoveries even as coronavirus caseloads surpass earlier records.

Stock benchmarks rose Monday in Hong Kong, Tokyo and most other regional markets. Strong Japanese growth data added to confidence the economy is recovering, despite burgeoning waves of coronavirus cases in many parts of the world including Japan. The world's third largest economy grew at 21 per cent annual pace in the last quarter, the first quarter of growth in nearly a year. Investors also were encouraged by Chinese economic data showing a continued recovery in October. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.6 per cent to 25,798.41 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged 0.2 per cent higher to 26,209.66. The Kospi in South Korea picked up 1.6 per cent to 2,534.78 and in Australia the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.2 per cent to 6,484.30. The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.4 per cent to 3,322.25. China's factory output rose 6.9 per cent over a year earlier in October, holding steady at September's rate, government data showed Monday.

Retail sales gained 4.3 per cent over a year ago, up one percentage point from the previous month. Investment in factories and other fixed assets rose 1.8 per cent in the first 10 months of 2020, up one percentage point from the first nine months. "The national economy sustained the momentum of steady recovery," said a government statement.

The Japanese data, while strong, are distorted by the size of the earlier declines, noted Robert Carnell of ING Economics, adding "the economy contracted 28.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 and still remains well below pre-Covid levels." In quarterly terms, the 7.9 per cent contraction in April-June was followed by a rebound of 5 per cent. "Japan had a slightly stronger than expected bounce-back in the third quarter, but not meaningfully better in the context of the massive swings we are seeing in economic activity," Carnell said.

The S&P 500 closed at a record high on Friday on rising optimism that a vaccine for the coronavirus will help end the shutdowns that have devastated economies. Markets also welcomed the election of Joe Biden as president and the likelihood of Republican control of the Senate, setting up a divided government that will probably mean a continuation of business-friendly policies.

Small-company stocks outpaced the rest of the market this week, reflecting greater confidence in the economy. The S&P 500 added 1.4% to 3,585.15, rising above the index's previous closing record of 3,580.84 set back in early September. It ended the week up 2.2%. The Dow rose 1.4%, to 29,479.81 and the Nasdaq rose 1% to 11,829.29. The Russell 2000, which is made up of smaller companies that tend to benefit the most when investors are positive on the economy, climbed 2.1% to close at 1,744.04, besting the closing high it reached in August 2018.

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