Sydney — Asian shares firmed on Monday on renewed hopes for a coronavirus vaccine after AstraZeneca resumed its phase-3 trial though sentiment was still cautious ahead of a big week of central bank meetings in the UK, Japan and the US.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.7%, poised for its second consecutive session of gains.

Australian shares climbed 0.6% while Japan’s Nikkei added 0.7%. Chinese shares started firm with the blue-chip index rising 0.6%.

US stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, jumped more than 1% after a mixed session on Wall Street last week.

Friday marked six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

Since then, major global economies have slipped into recession and millions have lost their jobs, prompting central banks worldwide to launch unprecedented stimulus.

The policy bazooka has buoyed financial markets, with the S&P 500 up 22%, 10-year Treasury yields diving 20.4 basis points and the greenback sliding 3.3%. The best-performing major currency has by far been the Australian dollar, up 11.9%, thanks to sound risk appetite.

“A wild ride indeed and one that is likely to continue as phase 3 vaccine results starts to roll through over the coming weeks,” NAB analyst Tapas Strickland said in a note on Monday.

AstraZeneca said at the weekend it has resumed British clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development, after getting the green light from safety watchdogs.

The late-stage trials of the experimental vaccine, developed with researchers from the University of Oxford, were suspended last week after an illness in a study subject in Britain, casting doubts on an early rollout.

A vaccine has long been awaited to help pull the world out of a coronavirus-induced lockdown.

‘Short-term correction’

“The reopening of the global economy is enticing us to recommend a trade going long on a basket of 14 laggard ‘back to work’ stocks vs a basket of 14 high-flying ‘Covid-19 winners’,” BCA Research wrote in a note.

“While we maintain a cyclical and secular bullish outlook on the broad market, a short-term correction due to technical and [geo]political reasons is likely on the cards,” it said.

“A playable short-term pullback is in order.”

Later this week, the US Federal Reserve will hold its two-day policy meeting where it is expected to hold rates while elaborating on the already-announced shift to inflation targeting.

The Fed is set to be “less pre-emptive in tightening policy than in the past”, Strickland noted.

The Bank of Japan and the Bank of England will announce their respective policy decisions on Thursday.

Asia’s focus will be on the election of Japan’s new prime minister with a party room vote expected to begin at 7am.

Major currencies were treading water on Monday. The dollar was mostly steady against the yen at 106.11, a long distance from its low this year of 101.2.

The euro was flat at $1.1849. The Aussie was barely changed at $0.7285 while the pound was a tad higher at $1.2823.

In commodities, US crude jumped 0.7% to $37.58 a barrel. Brent crude climbed 0.5% to $40 per barrel.

Gold was firm, with spot prices at $1,949.7 per ounce.


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