Asian stocks set to rise on firmer U.S. equities, vaccine hopes

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Asian markets are set to open higher on Friday after U.S. equities rose as investors weighed the outlook for economic growth and inflation and welcomed progress on vaccination rollouts.

“Market sentiment remains fairly bullish, and volatility, by post-pandemic standards, is remarkable low,” said IG Markets analyst, Kyle Rodda.

“At the moment – and indeed, this could be a level of complacency – the week’s choppiness in stocks has been taken in stride.”

Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures rose 0.30% in early trading, while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.14%.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.77%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.55% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures fell 0.02%.

The Nikkei 225 index closed the overnight session up 1.14% at 28,729.88. The futures contract is up 0.52% from that close. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures rose 0.37%.

U.S. Labor Department data showed claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a one-year low last week, a sign that the U.S. economy is on the verge of stronger growth as the public health situation improves and temperatures rise.

In his first formal news conference, U.S. President Joe Biden said that he would double his Administration’s vaccination rollout plan after reaching the previous goal of 100 million shots 42 days ahead of schedule.

On Wall Street, stocks closely tied to an economic recovery led the rebound while some ongoing weakness among high-growth stocks and shares of energy companies held back the S&P 500 and other major indexes from moving meaningfully higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 199.42 points, or 0.62%, to 32,619.48, the S&P 500 gained 20.38 points, or 0.52%, to 3,909.52 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.79 points, or 0.12%, to 12,977.68.

Oil tumbled after surging a day prior when a container ship became stuck in the Suez Canal. The ship may block the vital shipping lane for weeks.

U.S. crude was last down 0.09% to $58.51 per barrel and Brent was at $61.84, down 3.99% on the day.

Weighing on sentiment was a selloff in Chinese technology shares amid concern they will be delisted from U.S. exchanges on worries about a semiconductor shortage.

Shares of Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) fell 3.4% as the sporting goods giant faced a Chinese social media backlash over its comments about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.

The dollar index hit its highest since November overnight, at 92.697, breaking its 200-day moving average.

The dollar index rose 0.265%, with the euro up 0.05% to $1.177.

“The dollar is absolutely critical,” said James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “If the dollar starts rallying, that becomes a problem. It means commodity weakness and emerging-market weakness and it starts to provide a disinflationary countervailing narrative.”

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose in price to yield 1.6332%, from 1.614% late on Thursday.

Spot gold added 0.1% to $1,727.73 an ounce.

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