Asian stocks gain on stronger Chinese factory data

Asian stocks rose Tuesday after Chinese manufacturing improved, with investors looking ahead to US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s appearance before legislators.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney advanced.

Wall Street‘s benchmark S&P 500 index closed down 0.5% overnight but ended November up 10.8% for its biggest monthly gain since April.

Investors are increasingly optimistic about the expected development of a coronavirus vaccine despite caution about the short-term economic impact of rising virus cases in the United States and Europe.

The future seems incredibly bright and bullish, Stephen Innes of Axi said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.2% to 3,433.77 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo advanced 1.5% to 28.824.46. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.8% to 26,569.69.

The Kospi in Seoul advanced 1.3% to 2,625.22 and the S&P-ASX 200 in Sydney was 1.4% higher at 6,608.70. New Zealand declined while Southeast Asian markets rose.

An index of Chinese manufacturing released by a business magazine, Caixin, hit a decade high in November as the country’s recovery from the pandemic gained strength. A separate survey Monday by the government statistics agency showed activity at a three-year high.

Strength in the Chinese economy is helping offset unease about rising virus cases in the United States and Europe and possible renewed controls on business and travel.

In Washington, Powell said in a statement Monday that economic prospects are extraordinarily uncertain after the pace of improvement moderated. He said a full recovery is unlikely until the public is confident the disease is under control.

Powell was due to appear Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The panel oversees the 2 trillion aid package approved by Congress in March.

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The S&P 500 declined to 3,621.63. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.9% to 29,638.64. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1% to 12,198.74.

The slide followed reports showing the pandemic dragging down US economic activity in the near future. But investors appear to be looking beyond that.

Investors are encouraged by the end of uncertainty about the outcome of the US presidential election. They are reassured Washington will be under divided control, reducing the chances of big changes in taxes or regulation.

Markets also have been heartened by announcements from pharmaceutical companies of advances in vaccine development.

One developer, Moderna, said Monday it is ready to apply for emergency approval in the United States and Britain. Pfizer and German partner BioNTech are asking to begin vaccinations in the US in December. British regulators also are assessing the Pfizer shot and another from AstraZeneca.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude oil lost 36 cents to 44.98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 19 cents to 45.34 on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, sank 32 cents to 47.56 per barrel in London. It dropped 59 cents from the previous session to 47.59.

The dollar rose to 104.43 yen from Monday’s 104.34 yen. The euro advanced to 1.1960 from 1.1946.

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