Asian markets step back from stimulus-driven record highs

Asian markets step back from stimulus-driven record highs

Asian shares eased from record highs on Friday as investors took some money off the table after a recent rally that was driven by hopes a massive U.S. economic stimulus plan by incoming President Joe Biden will help temper the COVID-19 impact.

“The markets had such a strong run yesterday after the presidential inauguration in the U.S. and the run-up to that, that the lead coming in from the U.S. is a bit messy,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at investment manager AMP Capital in Sydney.

“A lot of the good news is out there. I suspect a fairly flat day.”

MSCI’s broadest gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside of Japan was off 0.2% at 722.49 points, a whisker away from its all-time high of 727.31 touched on Thursday.

The index has jumped 3.7% so far this week, reflecting relief over an orderly transition of power in the United States and strong expectations that U.S. stimulus will provide continued support for global assets.

Republicans in the U.S. Congress have indicated they are willing to work with President Joe Biden on his administration’s top priority, a $1.9 trillion U.S. fiscal stimulus plan, though some are opposed to the price tag.

Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, though they will still need Republican support to pass the program.

Australia’s benchmark index was down 0.2% while Japan’s Nikkei eased 0.4%.

Chinese shares started on the backfoot with the blue-chip CSI300 index down 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 0.1%.

Overnight on Wall Street, both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 closed at record highs.

Mainland Chinese stocks were down by the early morning. The Shanghai Composite was down by 0.65% to 3,597.31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down about 1.39% to 29,510.00.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei average. Nikkei 225 is trading down 0.24 per cent at 28,684.00 on Friday, while the broader TOPIX  100 fell 0.16 per cent to 1,212.00. South Korea’s Kospi was down by 0.04% to 3159.72.

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