Asian Markets Mostly Higher After Trump Signs COVID Relief Bill

Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday despite the absence of fresh cues from Wall Street, which was closed on Friday for the Christmas Day holiday.

Investor sentiment received a boost after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a coronavirus relief and government spending package into law on Sunday, just days after he threatened not to sign the package and called it a “disgrace”. Europe’s launch of a mass coronavirus vaccination drive on Sunday also raised hopes for an economic recovery.

The Japanese market is advancing. Nevertheless, trading activity remained subdued as foreign investors remained away from their desks for the year-end holidays.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 75.64 points or 0.28 percent to 26,732.25, after climbing to a high of 26,772.23 in early trades. Japanese stocks closed little changed on Friday in holiday-thinned trade.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is higher by more than 1 percent, while Fast Retailing is down 0.6 percent. In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are rising more than 1 percent each.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Sony is advancing almost 1 percent, while Panasonic and Mitsubishi Electric are adding 0.4 percent each, and Canon is up 0.3 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is adding 0.3 percent, while Honda is down 0.5 percent.
In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is higher by more than 2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging up 0.1 percent.

Among the other major decliners, Sharp Corp. is losing more than 4 percent and Hitachi Zosen is lower by more than 3 percent.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the mid 103 yen-range on Monday.

In economic news, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said that industrial output in Japan was flat on a seasonally adjusted basis in November. That missed expectations for an increase of 1.2 percent following the 4.0 percent gain in October.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia are also higher, while Shanghai is declining and Indonesia is edging lower. The Australian and New Zealand markets are closed on Monday in observance of Boxing Day.

The U.S. and European markets were closed on Friday for the Christmas Day holidays.

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