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Asian shares cautiously gain on virus hopes, dollar slips

Asian shares cautiously gain on virus hopes, dollar slips

Asian stock markets rallied for a second day on Tuesday, and riskier currencies rose, buoyed by tentative signs the coronavirus crisis may be levelling off in New York and receding in Europe.

Gains lacked Monday’s momentum, but were broad, even though global coronavirus cases kept rising and an economic crash on a scale not seen for generations looms large.

The United States is bracing for its toughest week yet as the death toll climbs above 10,000 while across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has entered intensive care after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 2% and has erased most of last week’s losses after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised a massive $991 billion economic stimulus package – equal to 20% of GDP.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan pared early gains, but rose almost 1%. U.S. stock futures eased 0.2% following a 7% surge on Wall Street on Monday.

Oil steadied and the risk-sensitive Australian dollar rose 0.5%.

“The market is front running what it believes is a peak in the virus case count with Europe leading the way,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone.

“You can almost smell the fear of missing out from active managers.”

Worldwide there are 1.3 million cases and 70,395 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus – rising even as swathes of the globe are under lockdown.

Hope stems though from hardest-hit Italy and Spain, where authorities have started looking ahead to easing lockdowns after steady falls in coronavirus-related fatality rates.

In New York, the number of deaths each day has also steadied while hospitalisations, admissions to intensive care and the number of patients put on ventilators all declined.

Markets in Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong opened higher, then pared gains. Australia’s ASX 200 slipped into the red.