Asian stocks eye gains as Brexit deal hopes grow

Asian shares were set to rise on Thursday ahead of the Christmas break, as global investors cheered a potential Brexit deal and economic recovery prospects, largely ignoring U.S. President Donald Trump`s threat to veto a long-awaited COVID aid package.

Australia`s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.78% in early trading, while Japan`s Nikkei 225 futures were up 0.07%, and Hong Kong`s Hang Seng index futures inched up 0.17%.

Investors cheered a potential Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union that raised hopes the estranged allies would avoid a turbulent economic rupture on New Year`s Day.

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“The framework for a Brexit trade deal gave investors the green light to start buying everything in Europe,” said Edward Moya, Senior Market Analyst, at OANDA in New York.

The potential for a Brexit deal boosted sterling, which was up 0.13% against the dollar at $1.3509 after closing up 0.9%. The pound also drew support after France lifted its ban on freight coming from Britain, which it had enacted in response to a fast-spreading COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom.

MSCI`s gauge of global stocks was up 0.02%, having given back some earlier gains in thin holiday trading.

Wall Street ended mostly higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 0.38% and the S&P 500 edging 0.07% higher. The Nasdaq Composite declined 0.29%.

A raft of mixed U.S. economic data showed lower jobless claims and an uptick in new orders for durable goods, but also a pullback in consumer spending, falling personal income and fading sentiment as the holiday shopping season nears its end amid a resurgent pandemic.

Investors largely shrugged off comments by President Trump saying a nearly $900 billion stimulus bill, agreed upon after months of wrangling in Congress, was “a disgrace” that he might not sign. Trump said he wanted to increase “ridiculously low” $600 payments for individuals to $2,000, in a video posted to Twitter.

“Risk-on sentiment is guiding markets so far today and it appears to be weighted more toward possible optimism toward a Brexit deal and the cherry-picked parts of U.S. releases, rather than Trump`s reckless antics over signing the stimulus and funding bill,” said Derek Holt, head of capital markets Economics at Scotiabank.

Oil prices settled more than 2% higher as draws in U.S. inventories of crude, gasoline and distillates lifted investors` hopes for some return in fuel demand. Brent crude futures were recently up 2.08% to $51.12 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were flat at $48.12 a barrel.

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