Japan Stocks Pop 2.5%; Asia-Pacific Shares Mostly Rise Amid Vaccine Hopes

Akio Kon | Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • Investors continued to monitor positive momentum surrounding the race for a coronavirus vaccine.
  • AstraZeneca said Monday interim analysis showed its coronavirus vaccine has an average efficacy of 70% in protecting against the virus.
  • Meanwhile, news that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has picked former Fed Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury Secretary could also buoy investor sentiment on Tuesday. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first woman to lead the department.

SINGAPORE — Stocks in Japan led gains among Asia-Pacific markets on Tuesday as investors in the region reacted to more positive coronavirus vaccine news, as well as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's choice of former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary.

The Nikkei 225 jumped 2.5% to close at 26,165.59 while the Topix index advanced 2.03% on the day to 1,762.40. Markets in Japan were closed on Monday for a holiday.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.58% to finish its trading day at 2,617.76. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 1.26% higher at 6,644.10.

Mainland Chinese markets, on the other hand, were lower on the day: the Shanghai composite dipped 0.34% to about 3,402.82 while the Shenzhen component declined 0.378% to around 13,902.54. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended its trading day 0.39% higher at 26,588.20.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.36%.

Vaccine hopes

Investors continued to monitor positive momentum surrounding the race for a coronavirus vaccine. AstraZeneca said Monday interim analysis showed its coronavirus vaccine has an average efficacy of 70% in protecting against the virus.

That follows other encouraging vaccine results in recent weeks, with late-stage trial readouts from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna showing their respective Covid-19 vaccine candidates were about 95% effective.

News that Biden has picked former U.S. Fed Chair Yellen to be Treasury secretary may also have buoyed investor sentiment on Tuesday. If confirmed by the Senate, she is set to be the first woman to lead the department.

"A strong spirit of cooperation between the Fed and Treasury is one thing of which we can now be assured," Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

"(Yellen's) a known commodity," Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia" on Tuesday.

"How she chooses ... to communicate ... is well-known within the market so there won't be any miscommunication," Kleintop said. "So, seems like a good choice all around from a market perspective."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has begun the transition process to President-elect Biden, making federal resources available for his transition into office.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 92.325 following an earlier high of 92.526.

The Japanese yen traded at 104.28 per dollar after seeing levels below 104 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7353 following an earlier low of $0.7281.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.93% to $46.49 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were 1.09% higher at $43.53 per barrel.

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— CNBC's Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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