NEW YORK: 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 0.78per cent in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 futures were up 0.07per cent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures inched up 0.17per cent.
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.
"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 0.13per cent against the dollar at US$1.3509 after closing up 0.9per cent. 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 0.02per cent, having given back some earlier gains in thin holiday trading.
Wall Street ended mostly higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 0.38per cent and the S&P 500 edging 0.07per cent higher. The Nasdaq Composite declined 0.29per cent.
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 US$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" US$600 payments for individuals to US$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 2per cent 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 2.08per cent to US$51.12 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were flat at US$48.12 a barrel.
(Reporting by John McCrank, additional reporting by April Joyner; Editing by Sam Holmes)