Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

London/Singapore — Global stocks hit five-week highs on Monday led by China’s post-holiday surge as investors bet on a steady recovery for the world’s second-largest economy, but worries about rising Covid-19 infections capped gains in Europe and the US.

European countries are considering adding fresh travel curbs due to rising coronavirus infections, a contrast to Asia-Pacific countries including Singapore, Australia and Japan, where a gradual easing of some international travel restrictions is under way.

Still, US and European markets were a tad higher as investors hoped for coronavirus aid in the US, with the Trump administration on Sunday calling on Congress to pass a stripped-down relief bill.

European stocks and US stock futures rose 0.2%. FTSE 100 and sterling meanwhile were wobbly ahead of a Brexit summit later in the week.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1% to 2½-year highs, buoyed by a 3% gain in Chinese blue chips and a 2.2% rise by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index.

China has returned from an eight-day Mid-Autumn festival with investors encouraged by a robust rebound in tourism and ebbing coronavirus cases.

“If capital is moving on relative growth rates, China is looking quite attractive,” said Chris Weston, head of research brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne. Equities are cheap, yields advantageous and the outlook solid, he said.

“From a virus perspective as well, we’re seeing concerns in Europe, while China is considered a quasi-safe haven.”

Chinese stocks were also boosted by rising chances of a Joe Biden victory in the US presidential election — an administration seen less likely to incline towards tariffs and trade disputes.

Chinese blue chips have gained 17% this year, compared with an almost 8% gain by the S&P 500. Foreigners’ buying of Chinese government bonds hit its fastest pace in more than two years last month.

“The economic fallout of Covid-19 has accelerated the relative decline of the US as the world’s economic engine,” said ANZ chief economist Richard Yetsenga. “It is also increasing the centrality of Asia — and particularly, of China.”

US markets are also gearing up for the earnings season. Major Wall Street banks including JPMorgan, Citi and Bank of America are poised to report later this week.

Yuan wobbles

In currency markets, a 0.4% drop in the yuan dragged the China-sensitive Australian dollar lower and underpinned small but broad gains for the dollar against other majors.

The People’s Bank of China has scrapped a requirement for banks to hold a reserve of yuan forward contracts, removing a guard against depreciation.

The yuan is up more than 7% since late May and had shot higher on Friday as investors wagered that a Joe Biden presidency would drive smoother Sino-US relations. It last sat at 6.7115 per dollar in onshore trade.

“We continue to expect a stronger yuan on the back of our expectation of solid Chinese growth and favourable interest rate differentials between China and the US,” Goldman Sachs’ analysts said in a note, with a 12-month yuan forecast at 6.50.

The euro edged 0.1% lower to $1.1819 and the yen firmed to 105.54 per dollar. The kiwi dipped 0.1% with the softer yuan to sit at $0.6661.

In commodity markets, oil prices were back under pressure after the resolution of an oil workers strike in Norway and the resumption of production after a storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gold held steep Friday gains at $1,929 an ounce as investors stuck with bets that US stimulus would eventually arrive and drive inflation to the benefit of bullion.

The US bond market is closed on Monday for Columbus Day.

Reuters

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