April 07, 2021: Asian markets mostly edged up Wednesday but gains were tempered as investors took a breather following a recent run-up, though another round of healthy data provided cause for continued optimism for the global recovery.
President Joe Biden gave cause to cheer by saying all adults in the United States would be eligible for a vaccine by April 19, almost two weeks earlier than previously pledged, reinforcing hope that the world's top economy will get back on its feet more quickly.
That came as California's governor said he aims to fully reopen the most populous US state by the middle of June if the current pace of inoculations continues.
In a further sign the United States was bouncing back, officials said job openings had surged to a two-year high in February, well above the level expected by most analysts.
That followed last week's forecast-busting employment report and data showing a strong pick-up in the manufacturing and key services sector.
The string of healthy data — along with Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus and $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal — have helped world markets climb to record or multi-month highs.
Recent concerns that the recovery and expected spending splurge will fan inflation and force central banks to lift interest rates have eased for now, with benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields dipping.
The International Monetary Fund backed up the view of a strong rebound by hiking its 2021 growth forecast for the second time in three months, predicting a 6.0 percent expansion, from its 5.5 percent prior estimate.
– Toshiba set to surge –
“Early signs show the recovery is accelerating, suggesting a faster return to 'normal' than many had dared to hope a few months ago,” said JP Morgan Asset Management's David Kelly.
“While this is very good news in general, it brings with it challenges for investors in making sure their portfolios are positioned for the very different financial landscape of a post-pandemic world.”
Wall Street was unable to maintain the momentum Tuesday, however, and all three main indexes retreated slightly.
But observers were confident the gains will continue.
“Central banks are continuing to keep interest rates so low so people are looking for someplace to put their money where they can get a return,” Sarah Hunt of Alpine Woods Capital Investors told Bloomberg TV.
“I think that's also why you have stocks priced somewhat for perfection.”
In early trade, Hong Kong dipped as it reopened after an extended holiday weekend, while Shanghai and Tokyo also dropped.
Analysts said buying was dampened by the Chinese central bank's move to slow loan growth owing to concerns about the development of bubbles.
Elsewhere in Asia, Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington were in positive territory.
Shares in Japanese giant Toshiba were set to soar Wednesday after it confirmed it had received a buyout offer from a British private equity firm that a report said could be worth $20 billion.
The Nikkei newspaper said CVC Capital Partners was considering a 30 percent premium over the industrial group's current share price. A flood of buy offers that outweighed sell orders meant the stock could not be traded in early business.
Toshiba said it would “request detailed information and carefully discuss” the offer.
– Key figures around 0245 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: FLAT at 29,685.77 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.5 percent at 28,790.62
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,460.87
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1869 from $1.1876 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3821 from $1.3823
Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.87 pence from 85.89 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 109.80 yen from 109.73 yen
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $59.24 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $62.65 per barrel
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 33,430.24 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 1.3 percent at 6,823.55 (close)