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Asia shares at four-month peak, stimulus trumps virus fears

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares held near four-month highs on Monday as investors counted on super-cheap liquidity and fiscal stimulus to sustain the global economic recovery even as surging coronavirus cases delayed reopenings across the United States.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.05%, having hit its highest since February.

Eyes were on Chinese blue chips, which surged almost 7% last week to their loftiest level in five years. Japan’s Nikkei, however, has lagged with its domestic economy and was last up 0.4%.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 firmed 0.3%.

Most markets had gained ground last week as a raft of economic data from June beat expectations, though the resurgence of coronavirus cases in the United States is clouding the future.

In the first four days of July alone, 15 states have reported record increases in new cases of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 3 million Americans and killed about 130,000, according to a Reuters tally. [nL1N2EC043]

“It is very clear that the U.S. never got the COVID outbreak under control the way that other countries did. By reopening the economy too soon, we have seen a frightening increase in the pace of new cases,” said Robert Rennie, head of financial market strategy at Westpac.

Analysts estimate that reopenings impacting 40% of the U.S. population have now been wound back.

“So markets will have to climb a wall of worry in July as economic activity likely softens from the V-shaped recovery seen over recent months,” warned Rennie. “We must remember too that U.S. and China relations are deteriorating noticeably.”

Two U.S. aircraft carriers conducted exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the U.S. navy said, as China also carried out military drills that have been criticised by the Pentagon and neighbouring states.[nL3N2EB00E]

The risks, combined with unceasing stimulus from central banks, have kept sovereign bonds supported in the face of better economic data, with U.S. 10-year yields holding at 0.67% and well off the June top of 0.959%.

Analysts at Citi estimate global central banks are likely to buy $6 trillion of financial assets over the next 12 months, more than twice the previous peak.

Major currencies have been largely range bound with the dollar index at 97.189 having spent an entire month in a snug band of 95.714 to 97.808.

The dollar was hardly changed at 107.59 yen on Monday, while the euro idled at $1.1260.

In commodity markets, gold has been benefiting from super-low interest rates across the globe as negative real yields for many bonds make the non-interest paying metal more attractive.

Spot gold traded at $1,776 per ounce just off last week’s peak of $1,788.96. [GOL/]

Oil prices were mixed in early trade with Brent crude futures up 15 cents at $42.95 a barrel, while U.S. crude eased 25 cents to $40.40. [O/R]

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