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Asian markets track US rally but stimulus battle tempers hope

Asian markets edged up Thursday following a rally on Wall Street but investors continued to fret over US lawmakers' failure to find common ground on a new rescue package for their beleaguered economy.

All three main indexes in New York saw more sharp gains fuelled by optimism over the US economic recovery following a forecast-busting jump in inflation that indicated the key consumer sector was revving up again, while hopes for a vaccine and the wall of central bank cash were also providing support.

The gains continued into Asia, with Tokyo up 1.9 percent as a recent drop in the safe-haven yen boosted exporters, while Hong Kong added 0.2 percent and Shanghai gained 0.3 percent. Seoul, Taipei and Singapore were all 0.7 percent higher, while Manila, Jakarta and Wellington also pushed ahead.

"The main force that’s been driving markets the last few weeks has really been momentum," said Kevin Caron, at Washington Crossing.

"We've got a market that's focused on the good case outcome for the virus, we've got a market that has taken a great deal of comfort in that fiscal policy is going to be there to support an economy through tough times."

There was also some cheer about Joe Biden's choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate for November's election, with observers pointing out she is not considered anti-business and was a more centre-ground politician than other options.

But stalled talks Washington continued to dampen the mood.

Traders have continued to bet on Congress eventually agreeing a new pandemic deal despite long-running animosity between Democrats and Republicans.

But both sides are blaming each other for the lack of movement, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying House Leader Nancy Pelosi would not budge unless their demand for spending of at least $2 trillion is met.

That is well down from the $3.5 trillion initially proposed by Democrats but Republicans say they are unwilling to shift from their $1 trillion plan.

- Capitol Hill standoff -

"The Democrats have no interest in negotiating," Mnuchin said, accusing them of playing politics to hurt Donald Trump with a general election just months away.

But in a joint statement, Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said: "Democrats have compromised." 

They added: "Repeatedly, we have made clear to the administration that we are willing to come down $1 trillion if they will come up $1 trillion. However, it is clear that the administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing."

There is also a focus on this weekend's China-US talks to review their trade pact signed in January.

There had been a worry that rising tensions between the superpowers could scupper the agreement, which ended a painful and long-running trade war that battered the global economy.

But top officials on both sides have expressed confidence the deal will be kept in place and analysts said there was little desire from either to scrap it.

"From the US perspective, imposing more trade taxes on US companies in the middle of a pandemic would generally be considered a bad thing for the stock market," said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.

"After touting the stock market's miraculous recovery... Trump would be vehemently against anything that would trigger a drop in stocks, so the trade talk risk has effectively been wiped off the slate.

"From China's perspective, Xi probably wants to keep US relations on good terms, given the strong likelihood of a change in the US administration with Democrats polling well."

- Key figures around 0300 GMT -

Tokyo: Nikkei 225: UP 1.9 percent at 23,272.34 (break)

Hong Kong: Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 25,284.33

Shanghai: Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,329.02

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1806 from $1.1791 at 2040 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.75 yen from 106.86 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3058 from $1.3026

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.41 pence from 90.48 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $42.57 per barrel 

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $45.30 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 27,976.84 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 2.0 percent at 6,280.12 (close) 

Topics: Market , Stocks , Asian , Nikkei , Wall Street
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