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Markets

Stocks rally again as optimism returns to Asia markets

  • The move has cost several Wall Street giants huge losses and there had been a fear that investors would have to sell other assets to close out positions to protect themselves from suffering steeper losses.
Published February 2, 2021

HONG KONG: Equity markets rose again Tuesday, extending the previous day's rally as investors got back in the saddle following last week's global rout, with sentiment buoyed by US stimulus hopes.

Concerns about the social media-led retail investor battle with Wall Street hedge funds also appeared to be easing, with analysts saying the threat to broader markets would likely be limited.

However, while the mood was a lot lighter than last week, the ever-present shadow of the coronavirus, along with stuttering vaccine rollouts, continues to keep gains in check.

Joe Biden on Monday held a meeting with a group of Republican lawmakers to discuss their stimulus counter-proposal as the new president looks to push through a bipartisan deal.

The $600 billion plan pushed by Republicans is less than a third of the one put forward by the White House, and includes smaller handouts and no provision for state and local governments -- two issues that Democrats are likely to reject.

The talks ended with no agreement but Republican Senator Susan Collins described them as "frank and very useful". She added: "I wouldn't say that we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two-hour meeting."

Still, Democratic leaders said they would look to pass the president's plan without Republican votes.

The two sides agreed to keep talks going behind the scenes. News of progress helped support US markets, which were a sea of red last week.

All three main indexes ended up, and Asia continued Monday's impressive performance.

Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei each surged more than two percent, while Sydney and Manila put on more than one percent. Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore and Jakarta also rose, though Wellington struggled.

Still, traders remain concerned that prices are still too elevated after a months-long rally, while immunisation drives and spiking cases of new coronavirus variants were also a worry.

Upbeat on outlook

"The excitement of vaccine development has been replaced by the reality of production, distribution logistics and questions on effectiveness," said Tai Hui, at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"The US and the UK are making steady progress in inoculating their populations.

However, there is some confusion surrounding the availability of vaccines and distribution in Europe, which is worrying investors and dimming the prospects of quick economic recovery."

But he added: "We're still positive on equities while acknowledging the near-term risk of more volatility. Despite the bumps in distribution, early data from Israel has shown that those who are vaccinated have a reduced rate of inflection. Hence, our view of a second half recovery supported by improvement from the pandemic is still intact."

Observers said prices were being helped by fading fears about the impact of the retail-investor attack on short sellers.

Huge numbers of amateur traders communicating via Reddit have jolted world markets in recent weeks, joining together to push up the prices of a number of troubled companies including GameStop and AMC that fund managers had been betting would fall in value.

The move has cost several Wall Street giants huge losses and there had been a fear that investors would have to sell other assets to close out positions to protect themselves from suffering steeper losses.

But National Australia Bank's Ray Attrill said: "The equity market cognoscenti, outside of the Reddit-obsessed retail community, appear to have decided over the weekend that the collective actions of the latter... (don't) pose a systemic risk capable of being the dominant influence on the broader market on a significant or sustained basis."

GameStop, which had surged as much as 2,000 percent from the start of the year, dropped by a third Monday. Activists seemed to have shifted their focus to silver this week, pushing it to an eight-year high.

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