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Asian shares rise on hopes for rapid vaccine rollout By Reuters

© Reuters. A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a stock quotation board outside a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A broad gauge of Asian shares edged up to record highs on Monday morning as hopes for imminent coronavirus vaccines buoyed investor sentiment, but worries over the impact of economic lockdowns and uncertainty over U.S. stimulus capped gains.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.38%, pushing past a previous record high touched on Friday.

Trading activity was thin early in the Asian day, with Japanese markets closed for a holiday. futures added 0.16% to 25,785 and Seoul’s Kospi was 0.84% higher.

The regional index also got a boost from Australian shares which gained 0.81% as the country eased some COVID-19 restrictions. Most of the country has seen no new community infections or deaths in several weeks.

In contrast, in the United States – where COVID-19 infections are quickening, total cases topped 12 million over the weekend and more than 255,000 have died – many hopes are focused on rapid vaccine rollouts.

A top government official of the U.S. government’s vaccine development effort said Sunday that the first vaccines could be given to U.S. healthcare workers and others recommended by mid-December.

Apart from the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns, many investors have taken a dim view of the slow pace of progress over stimulus to boost the U.S. economy.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that key pandemic lending programs at the Federal Reserve would expire on Dec. 31, putting the outgoing Trump administration at odds with the central bank and potentially adding stress to the economy.

“Discussion is only beginning and may take some time if the recent partisan disagreements over the composition and magnitude of fiscal spending are any indication,” analysts at ANZ said in a note.

U.S. e-mini futures for the were 0.25% higher at 3,563 on Monday after U.S. shares slumped on Friday on a combination of dwindling aid for the U.S. economy and rising novel coronavirus infection rates.

The dropped 0.75%, the S&P 500 fell 0.68% and the ended down 0.42%.

In currency markets, the dollar softened 0.06% against the yen to 103.79, while the euro gained 0.16% on the day to $1.1872.

The , which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, nudged down to 92.278.

rose 0.07% to $42.45 a barrel and global benchmark rose 0.33% to $45.11 per barrel.

rose 0.11% to $1,872.63 per ounce.

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