Shares rise

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    SYDNEY- Asian shares hovered near record highs on Monday while oil edged closer to $60 a barrel on hopes a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package will be passed by US lawmakers as soon as this month just as coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out globally.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last up 0.3 percent at 717.2 after climbing as high as 730.16 late last month.

    Japan’s Nikkei jumped 2 percent while Australian shares advanced 0.8 percent led by technology and mining shares. Chinese shares were mildly positive with the blue-chip CSI300 index up 0.1 percent.

    E-mini futures for the S&P 500 added 0.4 percent in early Asian trading.

    Hopes of a quicker economic revival and supply curbs by producer group OPEC and its allies pushed oil to its highest level in a year as it edged near $60 a barrel.

    Global equity markets have scaled record highs in recent days on hopes of faster economic revival led by successful vaccine rollouts and expectations of a large US pandemic relief package.

    On Friday, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 hit all-time highs on stronger-than-expected corporate results in the fourth quarter and as companies were on track to post earnings growth for the first quarter instead of a decline.

    The rallies came even as US data painted a dour picture of the country’s labor market with payrolls rising by 49,000, half of what economists were expecting.

    The weak report spurred the push for more stimulus, underscoring the need for lawmakers to act on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.