Biden transition and vaccine hopes drive up stocks, oil and bitcoin

LONDON/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Stocks, oil and risk currencies including bitcoin gained on Tuesday as the formal go-ahead for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to begin his transition burnished a November already boosted by COVID-19 vaccines.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the London Stock Exchange Group offices in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

European markets tracked gains in Asian and U.S. equities, with the broad-based STOXX 600 index climbing 0.6% and Brent crude climbing to its highest level since March at $46.52 a barrel. Safe haven assets such as gold fell.

After weeks of legal challenges to the election results, U.S. General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy wrote to Biden on Monday informing him the formal handover 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 towards a transition.

“Markets have been constrained by very high levels of uncertainty on the U.S. 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 U.S. stocks on expectations she would pursue more conventional policies than the outgoing Steven Mnuchin.

Futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.7% in early European trading hours, putting the 49-country MSCI world stocks index on course to set a new record high later.

Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2.5% 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%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 1.26% stronger, touching its highest level in almost nine months, with energy stocks leading the pack there.

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

(Graphic: Global markets enjoying November reign )

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 U.S. policy towards 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 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% effective.


The New Zealand dollar was among the currency gainers, rising as much as 0.9% to a two-year high of $0.6986 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 92.242.

Bitcoin hit $19,000 for the first time in nearly three years, homing in on its all-time high of just under $20,000 as demand for assets perceived as resistant to inflation grows.

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%, to $46.51 a barrel to add to a more than 20% surge this month, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude added 46 cents, or 1.1%, 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.

Adding to the positive near-term tone in markets was better than expected economic news from Germany, where gross domestic product grew by a record 8.5% in the third quarter as household spending recovered. The reading marked an upward revision to an earlier flash estimate of 8.2% growth.

The Ifo institute’s survey of business morale pointed to fears of a recession to come, however, as the business climate index fell to 90.7 from a downwardly revised 92.5 in October.

(Graphic: German IFO )

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

Gold continued to lose its shine too, falling 1% to $1,817 an ounce having dropped 10% this month.

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