Asian shares hit all-time highs

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    SYDNEY- Asian shares advanced to record highs on Monday as successful coronavirus vaccine rollouts globally raise hopes of a rapid economic recovery amid new fiscal aid from Washington, while oil prices rose on heightened tensions in the Middle East.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan jumped 0.4 percent to 736.4.

    Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1.1 percent, despite data showing the country’s recovery from its worst postwar recession slowed in the fourth quarter.

    Australia’s benchmark index added 0.9 percent while E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.3 percent in early Asian trading.

    China and Hong Kong markets are shut for the Lunar New Year holiday. US stock markets will be closed on Monday for the Presidents Day holiday.

    The highlight of the week will probably be minutes of the US Federal Reserve’s January meeting, where policymakers decided to leave rates unchanged.

    Data on inflation is due from the UK, Canada and Japan while Friday will see major economies including the United States release the preliminary February purchasing managers’ indices (PMI).

    While economists expect inflation to stay benign for some while yet, the so-called “reflation trade” has gathered steam in recent days largely led by coronavirus vaccines and hopes of massive fiscal spending under US President Joe Biden.

    Biden pushed for the first major legislative achievement of his term, turning to a bipartisan group of local officials for help on his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.