HONG KONG (AFP) - Asian markets rose on Monday (April 19) after recovery hopes for the coronavirus-battered US economy fuelling another round of record highs on Wall Street to close last week's trade.
Both the Dow and S&P finished at new peaks on Friday and also posted their fourth consecutive weekly gains, following on the heels of strong data for American housing starts, employment and retail sales.
Investors are banking on accelerated US pandemic containment efforts marking a step toward economic normalcy, with half of all adults in the country now having had at least one vaccine dose.
The easing of restrictions in Europe has also boosted optimism even as analysts keep a wary eye on alarming outbreaks prompted by new strains of the virus elsewhere in the world.
"Stocks will kick off the week at record highs, with investors digesting what appears to be an optimistic recovery despite mounting concerns about new Covid-19 variants," said Stephen Innes of Axi.
With less economic data on the calendar in the days ahead and the Fed in a communications blackout ahead of its April 28 rates meeting, "it might be a week for spring housekeeping in the markets," he added.
Hong Kong and Shanghai were both up more than one per cent in morning trade, despite first quarter economic growth in China skating under market expectations.
Tokyo rose 0.2 per cent after a shaky start with investors searching for new purchase cues.
"The Tokyo market may take a wait-and-see stance before the corporate earnings season kicks into high gear" later this week, SBI Securities said in a note.
Market sentiment in Japan has been hamstrung by a slow-moving vaccination programme, though the government said Sunday that the country should have enough vaccines for all citizens by September.
Sydney, Seoul, Taipei all rose, while Singapore was flat and slumps rounded out morning trade in Jakarta and Manila.
Oil benchmarks were down despite energy markets enjoying a boost from industry forecasts and tensions between Washington, Tehran and Russia, Innes said.
"With a softening in the Chinese credit impulse and a resurgence of virus cases in India and Japan, topside ambitions continue to run into walls of profit-taking," he added.
In currency markets, bitcoin dived more than 15 per cent at one point over the weekend after reports that the US Treasury could crack down on digital money laundering, according to NAB analyst Rodrigo Catril.
Bitcoin hit a record high above US$62,000 last week ahead of the Wall Street debut of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, despite concerns about a bubble and the sustainability of the digital currency market.