Stocks and oil ride high on Biden transition and vaccine hopes

European markets tracked gains in Asian and US equities as safe haven assets fell

Stocks, oil and risk currencies gained on Tuesday as the formal go-ahead for US president-elect Joe Biden to begin his transition burnished a November already boosted by Covid-19 vaccines.

European markets tracked gains in Asian and US equities, with the broad-based Stoxx 600 index opening 0.8 per cent higher and Brent crude climbing to its highest level since March at $46.38 a barrel. Safe haven assets such as gold fell.

After weeks of legal challenges to the election results, US General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy wrote to Biden on Monday informing him the formal hand-over process could begin.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he had told his team “do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols”, an indication he was moving toward a transition.


“Markets have been constrained by very high levels of uncertainty on the US political front and around vaccines for weeks, so with those two going away investors are considering the prospect of a return to normality in 2021,” said Emmanuel Cau, head of European equity strategy at Barclays.

Reports that Biden plans to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to become the next Treasury Secretary further boosted US stocks on expectations she would pursue more conventional policies than the outgoing Steven Mnuchin.

Futures for the S&P 500 rose 1.2 per cent in early European trading hours and putting the 49-country MSCI world stocks index on course to set a new record high later.

Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2.5 per cent to its highest level since May 1991 overnight, with energy, real estate and financial shares leading the advance.

Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had ticked up 0.4 per cent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 1.26 per cent stronger, touching its highest level in almost nine months, with energy stocks leading the pack there.

Seoul’s Kospi was 0.6 per cent higher as was Hong Kong’s Hang Seng which rose 0.4 per cent. China blue-chips were an outlier however, edging down 0.6 per cent, as investors booked profits following recent strong gains.

Some analysts say a Biden presidency, which could mean more negotiation room for Washington and Beijing, would not make a big difference for China’s equities market, as they expected little change in broad US policy toward China.

The progress made on Covid-19 vaccines, which had underpinned Wall Street overnight, helped keep risk appetite elevated as it boosted optimism about a quicker revival for the global economy.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University had said on Monday that their Covid-19 vaccine, which is cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than its rivals, could be as much as 90 per cent effective.

The New Zealand dollar was among the currency gainers, rising as much as 0.9 per cent to a two-year high of $0.6985 as its central bank said house prices, which have been storming higher this year, could be included in its inflation basket.

The euro was gaining towards $1.19 again and the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, nudged down to 92.235.

Also spurred on by the vaccine hopes, oil reached levels not seen since before the coronavirus began to spread rapidly in March and decimated demand.

Brent crude futures rose 45 cents, or 1 per cent, to $46.51 a barrel to add to a more than 20 per cent surge this month, while US West Texas Intermediate crude added 46 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $43.52.

“Progress on developing and distributing a vaccine de-risks the path back to normal for oil markets,” said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at financial services firm Axi.

In the bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year notes rose slightly to 0.87 per cent as did those on most European government bonds. Germany’s 10-year yield was up 1 basis point to -0.57 per cent in early trade.

Gold continued to lose its shine too, falling to $1,826.3 an ounce having now dropped 10 per cent this month. – Reuters