Stocks rise, bonds fall as vaccine shields against COVID concerns

A masked man walks past an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Asian stocks edged lower Wednesday after the International Monetary Fund said the global economy will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Stocks Gained and Bonds dropped, as news of a working COVID-19 vaccine seemed to protect investors against worry about surging infections. Simultaneously, the kiwi leaped as traders pared bets on New Zealand inflicting negative interest rates.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4%, and Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.8%. However, most of the action was switching between stocks as investors sold coronavirus winners to buy discounted losers.

For example, banks made additions to Tuesday gains, as did energy and some travel stocks while tech companies fell, even if the pace moderated from Tuesday moves on Wall Street.

Oil futures crept to new two-month highs on a sharp draw-down in supplies and anticipation of better demand in a post-pandemic world.

Equity futures reflected the steadiness at the index level, with S&P 500 futures up 0.2%, European lots a shade weaker, and Britain’s FTSE futures flat.

Currencies were quiet save gentle dollar selling and the soaring kiwi, which climbed nearly 1% to a 19-month high of $0.6903 after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand kept rates on hold, as expected, but sounded less dovish about the outlook.

“A rotation theme remains evident in equity markets,” said National Australia Bank strategist Rodrigo Catril in a note.

“Big tech, which has benefited from our virus-driven change in behavior, is now falling out of favor while small-cap stocks and those that have been most affected by social distancing restrictions have outperformed.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng traded on either side of flat as gains in financials were balanced by losses in tech names such as Tencent and Alibaba.

In Tokyo, industrials led the charge as enthusiasm for buying airlines petered out, while Shanghai’s tech-heavy indexes slipped slightly. Australian banks rose while camping gear retailers and gold miners extended losses.

The euro paused at $1.1820 ahead of a speech from European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde at 1300 GMT.

The equity rotation has come with a considerable bond selloff since Pfizer Inc announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, developed with BioNTech, showed a 90% success rate in preventing infection during trials.

The U.S. bond market is shut for Veterans Day, but the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasuries posted its highest close since March on Tuesday at 0.9720%, leaving the spread with two-year notes the widest since February 2018.

There is also a rotation of sorts underway in fixed income markets, as bonds in Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan fell. In contrast, riskier bonds in higher-paying countries like Indonesia held gains.

“Because of the better trade and growth prospects … I think we’re going to see a bit of yield compression between the low yielders and high yielders,” said Duncan Tan, rates strategist at DBS in Singapore.

New Zealand bonds crumbled as traders swiftly re-priced a much lower likelihood of negative rates, lifting the 10-year yield by 14.5 basis points to 0.898%, the steepest one-day rise since panic selling in March.

“The well managed COVID situation in New Zealand and prospects of a vaccine are heightening expectations that the RBNZ may not ultimately need to be as dovish as it sounds,” said Bank of Singapore currency analyst Moh Siong Sim.

Brent crude futures were last 41 cents firmer at $44.02 a barrel, just below a two-month high made earlier in the session. U.S crude futures rose 42 cents to $41.79 a barrel. Gold was steady at $1,881 an ounce.

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