Stocks ease

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    SYDNEY- Asian shares eased from all-time highs on Thursday as widening COVID-19 restrictions in the United states weighed on Wall Street, while bonds were underpinned by speculation the Federal Reserve would have to respond with yet more easing.

    Losses were minor with much of the region faring better in containing the coronavirus, though a jump in new cases in Tokyo did nudge the Nikkei off 0.4 percent and away from a 29-year closing top.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 percent, though that was from a record peak. Chinese blue chips were a fraction firmer.

    E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 steadied, after Wall Street took a late dip on Wednesday.

    The Dow ended down 1.16 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 1.16 percent and the Nasdaq 0.82 percent.

    Pfizer Inc shares had gained after the drugmaker said its COVID-19 vaccine was 95 percent effective and it would apply for emergency US authorization within days.

    Pfizer’s announcement came on the heels of a similar report from Moderna Inc.

    Yet, the US death toll still neared a world record of a quarter million as government officials in dozens of states weighed or implemented shutdown measures.

    New York closed its schools on Wednesday, while Minnesota ordered bars and restaurants to cease in-door dining.

    “The vaccines news are a positive medium-term impulse for the global economic outlook and investors are trying to weigh that against the prospect of an imminent stalling of the European and US recovery amid the prospect of extensions of current lockdown measures,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at NAB.

    The drag from new US restrictions was only amplified by the total lack of progress on a fiscal stimulus bill, fuelling speculation the Federal Reserve would have to expand its asset-buying campaign at a December policy meeting.

    Two top Fed officials on Wednesday held out the option of doing more.