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GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian stocks at record highs as Biden inauguration lifts stimulus hopes

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Andrew Galbraith and Jessica DiNapoli
·3 min read
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By Andrew Galbraith and Jessica DiNapoli

SHANGHAI/NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Asian stocks rose to new record highs on Thursday, tracking U.S. markets as investors hoped for more economic stimulus from newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden to offset damage wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans in the U.S. Congress have indicated they are willing to work with the new president on his administration's top priority, a $1.9 trillion U.S. fiscal stimulus plan, but some are opposed to the plan's price tag. Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, but will still need Republican support to pass the program.

But after record high closes on Wall Street overnight, markets in Asia reflected relief over an orderly transition of power and strong expectations that U.S. stimulus will provide continued support for global assets.

Kay Van-Petersen, global macro strategist at Saxo Capital Markets, said that Democratic control of the Senate "increases not just the probability of more fiscal (stimulus), but the magnitude."

"That means that this market should be way, way, way higher as a whole and we're going to get there. We're entering this regime of even more accelerated asset class inflation," he said.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan touched record highs and was last up 0.85%, with markets across the region posting gains.

Chinese blue-chips added 1.2%, Australian shares climbed 0.69% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng breached the 30,000 level, rising 0.31%.

Japan's Nikkei was up 0.72%, less than 1% off three-decade highs reached last week.

The rises in Asia followed fresh record highs on Wall Street overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.83%, the S&P 500 gained 1.39% and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.97%. On Thursday, e-mini futures for the S&P 500 ticked up to new records, and were last up 0.26%

"The market is still taking a sanguine view to tighter regulatory/tax risks given the narrow Senate majority, while still expecting additional fiscal stimulus," Tapas Strickland, an economist at National Australia Bank, said in a note.

Tech shares stood out after Netflix Inc said it would no longer need to borrow billions of dollars to finance its TV shows and movies, prompting its shares to surge nearly 17%.

Along with Netflix, the rest of the FAANG group, scheduled to report results in the coming weeks, jumped. Google parent Alphabet Inc rose 5.36%.

As equity gauges rose, U.S. stimulus hopes weighed on the greenback, pushing the dollar index down 0.1% to 90.319.

The dollar was flat against the yen at 103.52 and the euro gained 0.2% on the day to $1.2124.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury notes yielded 1.0836%, down slightly from a U.S. close of 1.09% on Wednesday.

In commodity markets, oil prices eased on an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stocks. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 0.56% to $53.01 a barrel. Brent crude fell 0.4% to $55.85 per barrel.

Spot gold was flat at $1,871 per ounce.

Full coverage for Eikon readers of the U.S. presidential transition: https://emea1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=20856 For multimedia coverage please open https://www.reuters.com/world/us in a separate browser

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; editing by Richard Pullin)