Asia shares rise on optimism about easing COVID restrictions

Asian shares advanced Monday across the board as buying set in after the lull of a US national holiday.

Analysts said the optimism may be driven by expectations the US may decide to cut Chinese tariffs, a welcome move that would also help tame inflation.

China’s Commerce Ministry said on Tuesday that Vice Premier Liu He spoke with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about coordinating economic policy between the two biggest economies and maintaining the stability of supply chains.

In a statement, it also said the Chinese side “expressed its concern over issues such as the removal of additional tariffs and sanctions imposed by the United States on China and fair treatment of Chinese companies.” The two sides agreed to continue their discussions, it said.

Investors also have been encouraged by the lifting of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic across the region, including in Japan, which had been booming with tourists from abroad ahead of the pandemic.

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“The quiet economic calendar yesterday brings sentiments to focus on the single relief headline of a potential US tariff-easing decision, which could run the risks of a sharp paring back in speculative bullish bets in the event of any inaction,” in taming inflation,” Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a commentary.

But risks remain because of inflation and slowing economic activity in some countries.

A resurgence in COVID-19 infections in Europe, the US and parts of Asia is also looming, bringing the threat of a reversion to pandemic precautions.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added nearly 1.0 per cent in morning trading to 26,404.90. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 per cent to 6,632.00. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.8 per cent to 2,342.24.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.8 per cent to 21,997.04, while the Shanghai Composite inched up 0.1 per cent to 3,409.95.

Market players are also closely watching for an interest rate decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia. It is expected to raise its key rate by 50 basis-points. Minutes of the latest policy meeting of the Federal Reserve are also due out on Wednesday and could bring hints on future policy.

Global investors have been worried about surging inflation and the possibility that higher interest rates could bring on a recession in some economies. US trading was closed Monday for Independence Day.

The futures for the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 were both up 0.4 per cent early Tuesday.

Shares ended last week with a rally, with the S&P 500 surging 1.1 per cent. The Dow gained 1 per cent and the Nasdaq rose 0.9 per cent. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 1.2 per cent.

In the first half of this year, the S&P 500 had its worst performance since the first six months in 1970. It’s now down 20.2 per cent from the peak it set at the beginning of this year.

The risk of a recession is simmering as the US Federal Reserve aggressively hikes interest rates. The Fed is raising rates to purposefully slow economic growth to help cool inflation, but could potentially go too far and bring on a recession.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz gathered top employer and labor union representatives at his Berlin office Monday to seek ways of addressing the impact of rising prices while preventing a spiral of inflation in Europe’s biggest economy.

In energy trading, benchmark US crude surged USD 1.87 to USD 110.30 a barrel. It gained USD 2.67 on Friday to USD 108.43 a barrel.

Trading was closed Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 3 cents to USD 113.47 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar edged up to 136.15 Japanese yen from 135.

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