Asian markets hit 2-year peak

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    SYDNEY- Asian markets advanced toward a recent 2-1/2-year peak on Monday powered by hopes of a US fiscal package and expectations of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year, though weaker-than-expected Chinese data capped gains.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.6 percent for its second straight day of gains, paring back slightly following third-quarter gross domestic product data from China.

    The index has risen in eight of the last 10 sessions amid a rally in risk assets buoyed by hopes of a coronavirus vaccine and expectations of a so-called “blue wave”, which would see the Democrats claim victory in November’s elections.

    Chinese shares started higher though the blue-chip index pared gains after China’s GDP data missed forecasts, though separate monthly indicators pointed to an expansion in economic activity.

    China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.9 percent in July-September from a year earlier, slower than the median forecast of 5.2 percent.

    Monthly indicators beat forecasts – industrial output accelerated 6.9 percent in September from a year earlier, when analysts were looking for a 5.8 percent gain from a 5.6 percent rise in August. Retail sales edged up 3.3 percent last month from a year earlier against expectations for 1.8 percent growth.

    “The rebound in Q3 GDP was less strong than expected, but was still a decent 4.9 percent YoY. September data beat expectations, suggesting a pickup in momentum towards the latter part of Q3,” said Frances Cheung, head of macro strategy for Asia at Westpac in Singapore.

    “The pickup in momentum was broad-based, which bodes well for the Q4 outlook.”

    Japan’s Nikkei and Australia’s benchmark index were each up 1.1 percent.

    Boosting overall sentiment, drugmaker Pfizer Inc said on Friday it could have a coronavirus vaccine ready in the United States by the end of this year.

    E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 jumped 0.6 percent in Asian trading after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday she was optimistic legislation on a wide-ranging coronavirus relief package could be pushed through before the election.

    But with her negotiating partner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in the Middle East until Tuesday, such a timeframe would seem to be overly optimistic, analysts said.