World shares advance as traders await details of Biden plan

Stocks advanced in most global markets Thursday as traders waited to see details of President-elect Joe Biden’s plan for helping the U.S. economy recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Benchmarks rose in London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong but fell in Shanghai.

U.S. futures were trading slightly higher after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

Democrats and even some Republicans concluded that Trump incited an insurrection after he encouraged a mob of loyalists who went on to attack the Capitol last week. The voting concluded after the close of regular trading.

For the most part, investors have been looking past such political turmoil and focusing instead on expectations for a stronger economy ahead. Biden is expected to release details of his plan to support the economy later Thursday. They could include bigger cash payments to most Americans.

Markets got a boost from China’s report that its exports rose in 2020 despite pressure from the coronavirus and a tariff war with Washington. Exports increased 3.6% over 2019 to $2.6 trillion, an improvement on the previous year’s 0.5% gain. Imports edged down 1.1% to just over $2 trillion, but growth was strong in the second half after China became the first major economy to revive following the pandemic.

Stronger growth in the world’s two largest economies would bode well for the rest of the world, especially export-dependent nations in Asia.

“With President-elect Biden shooting for the moon on stimulus, and China data suggesting its economic juggernaut remains on track, financial markets should enter the last part of the week on a positive frame of mind,“ Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.

Germany’s DAX picked up 0.4% to 13,992.29 and the CAC 40 in Paris rose 0.3% to 5,676.79. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.5% to 6,778.32. The future contract for the S&P 500 edged 0.2% higher while that for the Dow industrials climbed 0.3%.

During Asia’s trading day, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.9% to 28,698.26 after a report showed strong growth in machinery orders in December, suggesting robust corporate spending despite a marked worsening of the pandemic.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.9% to 28,496.86. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 0.7% to 3,149.93. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4% to 6,715.30.

The Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.9% to 3,565.90 despite the upbeat trade data, as authorities reported a new surge in coronavirus cases in its frozen northeast. China on Thursday also reported its first new death attributed to COVID-19 in months.

Nearly a year after the pandemic first began, China has put more than 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Hebei, Beijing and other areas in hopes of stemming infections ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

In U.S. trading on Wednesday, the S&P 500 inched up 0.2% to 3,809.84. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell less than 0.1% to 31,060.47. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 0.4% to 13,128.95. Stocks of smaller companies pulled back from their big recent rally. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks lost 0.8% to 2,111.97.

World markets have rushed higher recently in anticipation that economies will recover with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and more stimulus from a U.S. government soon to be run by Democrats.

Expectations of higher government spending and the possibility of inflation have helped push longer-term Treasury yields to their highest levels since last spring.
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