Asia stocks pare gains amid caution about bets on coronavirus vaccine

The gains in Asia came after a mixed performance for US stocks as investors switched back to technology stocks. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares pared their gains in choppy trade on Thursday (Nov 12) as investors awaited further details on whether drugmakers can develop a coronavirus vaccine.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.06 per cent to 609.41, which is near its January 2018 high of 617.12. Chinese shares erased early gains and fell 0.02 per cent. Stocks in Japan hit a 29-year high.

Australian stocks fell 0.49 per cent as a decline in copper prices hurt shares in miners. S&P 500 stock futures fell 0.55 per cent.

Singapore's Straits Times was down 0.44 per cent at 2.11pm local time.

Euro Stoxx 50 futures were down 0.58 per cent, German DAX futures fell 0.51 per cent, and FTSE futures lost 0.94 per cent in a sign of a cautious start to European trading.

Oil futures traded near two-month highs due to hope for a vaccine and a larger-than-expected drawdown in US crude inventories.

US stocks were mixed as investors switched back to technology stocks and away from economically sensitive sectors as they weighed Covid-19 vaccine progress and the likely timing of an economic rebound.

"The markets are waiting for more news about the virus, so it is difficult for investors to short equities," said Daiju Aoki, regional chief investment officer for Japan at UBS Securities.

"These expectations can keep equities going for another few weeks, but there are still questions about the effectiveness of a vaccine and about US fiscal policy. We could see a correction early next year."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.08 per cent on Wednesday, but the Nasdaq closed up 2 per cent, and the S&P 500 gained 0.77 per cent.

Encouraging comments from European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde on continued economic support boosted European shares for the third straight session.

Moderna Inc said on Wednesday it is preparing to submit data on its experimental Covid-19 vaccine to an independent safety board, which should help determine the vaccine's efficacy.

Pfizer also said on Monday that its vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective and it may release safety data later this month.

Investors the world over are keenly awaiting details on both drugs, but some analysts said it will still take a long time to distribute an effective vaccine.

In the currency market, the New Zealand dollar soared for a second consecutive session to a 19-month high as investors unwound bets on the introduction of negative interest rates.

The kiwi got an added boost after Reserve Bank of New Zealand Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby said the economy required less stimulus than it did in August.

The US dollar edged lower against the yen and yuan as traders adjusted positions before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office next year.

Global oil benchmark Brent rose 0.02 per cent to US$43.81 a barrel, which is near a two-month high. US crude futures also gained 0.14 per cent to US$41.51 a barrel.

"Crude markets remain torn by the bleak near-term picture with curfews, closures and shutdowns becoming more widespread across the US and Europe; and the medium-term picture where vaccines may bring a return to more normal conditions," Westpac analysts for Australia and New Zealand wrote in a note Thursday.

Spot gold edged up 0.27 per cent to US$1,869.75 an ounce.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields fell slightly to 0.9357 per cent and the yield curve flattened in Asian trade. The US bond market was closed on Wednesday in observance of Veterans Day after the 10-year yield reached the highest level since March.

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