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Investors react to U.S. coronavirus relief package

Vehicles are reflected in a window as electronic boards display stock information at the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX.

Lisa Maree | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific markets traded higher Monday as investors reacted to last week’s U.S. jobs report that trounced expectations and fueled hopes for a faster economic recovery.

Australian shares were in the green. The benchmark ASX 200 climbed 1.69% as all sectors traded higher, with the heavily-weighted financials subindex adding 1.39%. Major banking and mining stocks rose: Shares of Commonwealth Bank jumped 1.86% while Rio Tinto added 3.56%, Fortescue was up by 2.22% and BHP gained 3.05%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.96% as banking stocks advanced. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group shares gained 2.35%, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group added 2.32% and Nomura shares were up 3.58%. Elsewhere, the Topix index added 0.91%.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.55%.

Monday’s session in Asia-Pacific followed a wild day in U.S. markets last Friday, where stocks roared back from a sharp sell-off as a stronger-than-expected nonfarm payrolls report improved optimism for a quicker economic recovery.

“Investors remain wary of the impact that the massive Biden fiscal experiment will have on longer-term interest rates, making for a fragile equity environment,” analysts at ANZ Research said in a morning note on Monday. “That defensiveness may prevail into the mid-March (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting.”

U.S. relief package

The U.S. Senate passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package over the weekend that includes direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. The bill is expected to pass in the Democratic-held House this week and sent to President Joe Biden for his signature before a March 14 deadline to renew unemployment aid programs.

Last month, Fed Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers that the U.S. economy was a long way from its employment and inflation goals and that it will likely take time for substantial further progress to be achieved. He said that inflation is still “soft” and that the Fed was committed to current policy, which implied interest rates are likely to remain low for now.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar inched against a basket of its peers at 91.893, coming off an earlier high around 91.949. It still traded higher compared to levels below 91.00 in the previous week.

Elsewhere, the Japanese yen changed hands at 108.35 per dollar while the Australian dollar traded higher by 0.27% at $0.7707.

Oil prices jumped over 2% during Asian trading hours on Monday. U.S. crude futures rose 2.01% to $67.42 and global benchmark Brent added 2.02% to $70.76.

Last week, OPEC and its oil-producing allies said the group would keep production largely steady through April while Saudi Arabia added that it would extend its one million barrels per day voluntary production cut into next month.

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