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Asian Shares Rise on optimism over post-coronavirus Rebound

Stocks across Asia-Pacific followed their Wall Street counterparts higher after governments in the region signaled confidence in an eventual economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Japanese stocks led gains among the region’s major markets, with the Nikkei 225 jumping 2.06% in afternoon trade as shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank Group each rose more than 2.5%. The Topix index also rose 1.7%.

Mainland Chinese stocks rose by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite up 0.91% while the Shenzhen composite gained 1.209%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also added 0.99%.

South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1.2% while the Kosdaq index was 1.82% higher. Shares in Australia also edged higher, with the S&P/ASX 200 rising 0.74%. Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index gained 1.3%.

Investors in Australia were boosted by comments from the central bank that it was “prepared to scale up [bond purchasing] again if necessary” to achieve its target for treasury yields.

In currency markets the Australian dollar rose 0.6 per cent to $0.6533 after the Reserve Bank of Australia said the initial stages of the country’s economic rebound “could start quite soon”. But the central bank warned a full recovery “will take time” and forecast an economic contraction of 6 per cent in 2020.

Overnight, New York’s Nasdaq Composite closed 1.4 per cent higher to take the technology-focused index into positive territory for the year. Wall Street’s S&P 500 rose 1.2 per cent despite fresh data showing US jobless claims over the past seven weeks had risen to more than 33m.

S&P 500 futures rose 1 per cent after China’s state news agency Xinhua said US and Chinese trade representatives had held a call and agreed to co-operate on public health and in carrying out the phase one trade deal agreed in January.

Trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies have re-emerged over the last week, further fraying investor sentiment already hit by the coronavirus crisis.

Oil prices rose with Brent crude, the international benchmark, climbing 1.8 per cent to $29.98 a barrel. US marker West Texas Intermediate gained 2.3 per cent to $24.10.