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Asian stock markets gain as Fed promises economic support

Asian stock markets

Asian markets gained on Tuesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve promised support to the economy as Congress delayed action on a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package

Asian stock markets gained on Tuesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve promised support to the struggling economy as Congress delayed action on a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package.

The Nikkei 225 NIK, +7.13% in Tokyo rose 5.3% and Seoul’s Kospi 180721, +8.60% gained 5.3%. The Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, +2.33% rose 1.5% to 2,706.80 The Hang Seng in Hong Kong HSI, 4.462% was 3.4% higher and Australia’s S&P-ASX 200c XJO, +4.17% gained 1.9%.

Traders were encouraged by the Fed’s promise to buy as many Treasurys and other assets as needed to keep financial markets functioning.

That came as Wall Street fell 3% after Congress failed to approve an economic support package. It would send checks to U.S. households and offer support for small businesses and the hard-hit travel industry, but Democrats say it favours companies too heavily at the expense of workers and public health.

Asian investors like what they see from an all-in Fed which is being viewed in a very impressive light for both Main and Wall Street even as the U.S. congress dithers, said Stephen Innes of AxiCorp. in a report.

The Fed’s promise goes beyond the $700 billion in purchases announced last week.

The central bank said it will buy a wide range of investments, including corporate bonds for the first time, to improve trading in markets that help home buyers purchase houses, state and local governments borrow and businesses to get enough short-term cash to make payroll.

The pressure is now on Congress to get its act together and provide the support that the Fed cannot do — helping the vulnerable people who face the biggest health and economic consequences, said James Knightley of ING in a report.

The risk is that this wall of support from the Fed and the positive reaction in markets may give Congress a sense that it has more time and the pressure to deliver a package is reduced, Knightley said.

As Congress was locked in stalemate, the number of known infections worldwide jumped past 380,000. After just a few weeks, the United States has more than 46,000 cases and more than 600 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. Those with mild illness recover in about two weeks. Severe illness including pneumonia can occur, especially in the elderly and people with existing health problems. Recovery could take six weeks in such cases.

Also Monday, trading on the New York Stock Exchange went all-electronic for the first time after the trading floor was temporarily closed as a precaution. The exchange announced the move last week after two employees tested positive for the virus. The number of floor traders had dwindled sharply in recent years as more trading become electronic.

Wall Street and some other stock markets have lost nearly one-third of their value over the past month as business shutdowns spread and airlines, retailers and other industries suffer rising losses.

Economists increasingly say a recession seems inevitable. Analysts are slashing their forecasts for upcoming corporate profits. Forecasters say they cannot project how deep the downturn might be or how long it will last.

Professional traders say investors need to see a decline in numbers of new infections before markets can find a bottom.

Congress debated through the weekend on the rescue plan, but White House officials and congressional leaders are struggling to finalize it. Democrats blocked a vote to advance the package Monday. They want to steer more of the assistance to public health and workers.

Even if the two sides find a compromise, Congress may need to go through more rounds of similar negotiations if the outbreak isn’t brought under control.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index SPX, -2.92% 2.9% to 2,237.40 in another day of sudden swings. It was down as much as 4.9% and as little as 0.2% earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -3.03% fell 3% to 18,591.93. The Nasdaq COMP, -0.27% , which is dominated by technology companies, lost only 0.3% to 6,860.67 as tech shares held up better than the rest of the market.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude CLK20, 5.351% gained 73 cents to $23.36 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $2.59 the previous session to close at $22.63. Brent crude BRNK20, 4.440%, used to price international oils, added 5 cents to $27.03 per barrel in London. It lost $1.49 the previous session to $26.98.

The dollar USDJPY, -0.627% declined to 110.33 yen from Monday’s 111.23.

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