China shares rise on return from holiday, profit-taking hits other markets

TOKYO/WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Chinese shares rose on Thursday during the first trading session after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday amid renewed optimism for an acceleration in global growth, but other Asian markets were hit by profit-taking.

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MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.15% but was still close to an all-time high. Shares in China rose 0.77%. Australian stocks erased gains to trade 0.05% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei was unchanged.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 fell 0.04%.

Yields on two-year Treasuries hit a record low and the 10-year yield extended a pullback from a one-year high as a bond market sell-off started to fade.

Strong U.S. retail sales, new signs the Federal Reserve will maintain its accommodative stance, and an ongoing push for further U.S. stimulus have bolstered economic optimism, but some analysts remain cautious because new strains of the coronavirus continue to emerge.

“With an even larger stimulus package likely to be passed by Congress before the end of March, the U.S. economic recovery could gain more momentum in 2021,” wrote Commonwealth Bank of Australia currency analyst Carol Kong.

“Despite the recent positive vaccine developments, the global economic outlook remains uncertain partly because of the spreading virus variants.”

On Wall Street, technology stocks fell, driving down the Nasdaq while other companies rose on broader economic optimism.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.29%, while the S&P 500 lost 0.03% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.58%.

The MSCI’s global stock index fell 0.04% but was still near a record high.

While investors eyed inflation, minutes from the January Fed meeting showed policymakers willing to push further accommodation to boost the pandemic-scarred U.S. economy.

Hopes for a stronger U.S. economy supported the greenback. The dollar index, a measure of the currency’s strength against six other major currencies, was steady, holding onto a 0.25% gain from the previous session.

The risk-on appetite was apparent in bitcoin, which continued its upward march to exceed $52,000 amid signs it may be gaining more mainstream acceptance. Cryptocurrency ethereum also rose more than 2% to new record high of $1,900.

The two-year U.S. Treasury yield briefly touched a record low of 0.1049%. Benchmark 10-year yields eased slightly to 1.2669%, pulling away from the highest level since Feb. 27, 2020 as some investors judged that recent selling of fixed income had gone too far.

An ongoing deep freeze in Texas continued to drive up oil prices, as the unusually cold weather hampered output at the largest U.S. crude producing state. Brent crude gained 1.35% to $65.22 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 1.29% to $61.93 a barrel, both reaching levels not seen since January last year.

Spot gold edged up 0.14% to $1,778.72 per ounce. U.S. gold futures rose 0.28% to $1,777.60 per ounce.

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