Asian stocks advance on optimism over pandemic recovery

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were higher across Asia on Friday after a strong gains on Wall Street driven by hopes for a powerful recovery from the pandemic.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai all gained and U.S. futures also were higher.

Hopes that economies will regain ground lost since last year’s first outbreaks of coronavirus thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations and huge amounts of government have helped support stocks. At the same time, a quick rise in U.S. interest rates has undercut those advances.

The U.S. government reported the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits fell last week to its lowest level since before the pandemic, helping to boost sentiment.

“Although very much in the price, investors did take solace as the positive outlook for vaccines amid President Joe Biden’s plan for an ‘economic rejuvenation,’ which underpinned risk overnight,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index surged 1.5% to 29,169.06 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong picked up 1.1% to 28,218.31. In Seoul, the Kospi rose 0.8% to 3,033.72. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 1.4% to 3,409.77 and India’s Sensex opened 0.9% higher.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.5% to 3,909.52 after having been down 0.9% in the early going. But it was still on track for a loss for the week.

Investors have been moving money away from expensive tech stocks as part of a broader shift to stocks tied more closely to economic growth. There’s a good chance the recovery could be surprisingly strong with little interference from the Federal Reserve, said Andrew Slimmon, portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

“There is a very clear message that the Fed is going to sit back and let the economy grow at a hotter rate because their number one priority is unemployment,” he said. “That means there’s a good chance the economy overshoots.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6% to 32,619.48. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite recovered from early losses to edged 0.1% higher, to 12,977.68. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks outdid the rest of the market, climbing 2.3% to 2,183.12.

The 10-year Treasury yield, which helps set rates for all kinds of loans, was steady at 1.62%. Treasury yields have been broadly rising with expectations for stronger economic growth and the inflation that may accompany it.

Apart from the upbeat jobless report, another report said the U.S. economy grew at a faster pace at the end of 2020 than earlier estimated.

In other trading Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 59 cents to $59.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It sank $2.62 on Thursday to $58.56 per barrel.

Brent crude, the standard for international pricing, picked up 47 cents to $62.67 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 109.26 Japanese yen from 109.19 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1779 from $1.1766.

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AP Business writers Damian J. Troise, Alex Veiga and Stan Choe contributed.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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