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Asian shares climb on Wall Street rally, stimulus hopes

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Friday in Tokyo. (AP)
A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Friday in Tokyo. (AP)

Asian shares were mostly higher Friday on hopes for additional economic stimulus after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. 

A new state of emergency in the Tokyo region to combat surging coronavirus cases did little to dampen market optimism. The benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 2.4 percent to close at 28,139.03, its highest finish in more than 30 years. 

The emergency declaration, announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for Tokyo and nearby areas, asks people to stay home and refrain from going out at night to dine and drink. 

South Korea's Kospi gained nearly 4.0 percent to 3,152.27, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.7 percent to 6,757.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.2 percent to 27,879.84, while the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2 percent to 3,568.91. 

Regional share prices were boosted by major US stock indexes surging to all-time highs. 

"Asia markets tracked the Wall Street optimism for a second morning, climbing amid the sustained hopes of further fiscal injections in the US to keep the recovery on track," said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore. 

The S&P 500 rose 1.5 percent to a record 3,803.79. Investors were reassured by Congress' confirmation of Biden's presidential election win and a shift in control of the Senate to the Democrats and largely moved on from the previous day's violence and chaos at the Capitol building. 

President Donald Trump has issued a statement saying there will be an "orderly transition on January 20th,'' although he continues to claim falsely that he won. Democratic victories in the two runoffs held Tuesday for Georgia's US Senate seats tipped the Senate to 50-50 split, with potential ties being broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

With Democrats fully in control of Washington, Wall Street is anticipating the Biden administration and Congress will try to deliver $2,000 checks to most Americans, increase spending on infrastructure and take other measures to nurse the economy amid the worsening pandemic.

"The expectations are shifting to more stimulus, sooner, which is generally better for the economy and better for the market as well,'' said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategy director at US Bank Wealth Management.

The rally was broad-based, though the S&P 500's technology sector notched the biggest gain, recouping losses after a pullback a day earlier.

The Dow gained 0.7 percent to 31,041.13. The tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 2.6 percent to 13,067.48. The Russell 2000 picked up 1.9 percent to 2,096.89.

Wall Street's latest rally adds to gains from a day before, when stocks rose on Democrats' victories in the Senate runoffs. Investors are largely looking past the current political ugliness _ and the pandemic's acceleration around the world _ and are focusing instead on prospects for an improving economy.

Hopes are also growing about the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to help daily life around the world get closer to normal. That has investors anticipating a explosive return to growth for corporate profits later this year.

In energy trading, benchmark US crude added 29 cents to $51.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 20 cents on Thursday to $50.83 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 31 cents to $54.69 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar rose to 103.87 Japanese yen from 103.80 yen late Thursday. The euro cost $1.2265, down from $1.2270. (AP)

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