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Asian stocks hit 1-mth highs, Bitcoin climbs

Asian shares hit a one-month high on Monday helped by expectations monetary policy will remain accommodative the world over, while COVID-19 vaccine rollouts help ease fears of another dangerous wave of coronavirus infections.

Indicators were positive for Europe as well with futures for Eurostoxx 50 STXEc1 up 0.2% and Germany’s DAX FDXc1 adding 0.1% though those for London’s FTSE FFIc1 were barely changed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS went as high as 699.70, a level not seen since March 18. It was last up 0.1% at 696.46.

The index jumped 1.2% last week and is up 5.1% so far this year, on track for its third straight yearly gain.

“The extremely supportive monetary and fiscal policy setting continues to provide a fertile environment for risk assets,” said Rodrigo Catril, senior forex strategist at National Australia Bank.

Australian shares .AXJO finished unchanged from Friday’s close while New Zealand’s benchmark index .NZ50 gained 0.6% and South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 added 0.1%. Japan’s Nikkei .N225 turned around its losses to end flat.

Chinese shares, which started in negative territory, recouped losses with the blue-chip index .CSI300 up 2.2%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.6%.

On Friday, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 0.4% to close at a new record high while clocking its sixth straight weekly gain. The Dow .DJI finished 0.5%, also at a record high while the Nasdaq .IXIC climbed 0.1%.

The gains are unlikely to extend further with e-mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 down 0.2%.

This week is off to a quiet start with no major data releases slated on Monday.

Investors will keep their eyes peeled for earnings from IBM IBM.N and Coca-Cola COKE.O later in the day. Netflix NFLX.O reports on Tuesday while later in the week American Airlines AAL.O and Southwest LUV.N will be the first major post-COVID cyclicals to post results.

The European Central Bank (ECB) meets on Thursday with no changes to rates or guidance expected while preliminary data on factory activity around the globe for April is due on Friday.

Elsewhere, Bitcoin BTC=BTSP, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, reversed its losses after plunging as much as 14% on Sunday following speculation the U.S. Treasury may be looking at cracking down on money-laundering activity within digital assets, NAB’s Catril said.

Data website CoinMarketCap cited a blackout in China’s Xinjiang region, which reportedly powers a lot of bitcoin mining, for the selloff.

The retreat in Bitcoin also comes after Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases on Friday.

Bitcoin was last up 1%. It has risen more than 90% year to date, driven by its mainstream acceptance as an investment and a means of payment, accompanied by the rush of retail cash into stocks, exchange-traded funds and other risky assets.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar =USD loitered near a four-week low against a basket of currencies as investors increasingly bought into the Federal Reserve’s insistence it would keep an accommodative policy stance for a while longer.

The dollar index measuring the greenback against a basket of six currencies was unchanged at 91.567, not far from its lowest since March 18 touched on Friday.

Against the Japanese yen JPY=, the greenback was off 0.2% at 108.52. The euro was a tad lower EUR= at $1.1964 while the British pound GBP= gained 0.2% to $1.3854. FRX/

The risk-sensitive Aussie dollar AUD=D3 climbed to $0.7740.

In commodities, oil prices were down with the Brent LCOc1 slipping 22 cents to $66.55 a barrel and U.S. crude CLc1 falling 19 cents to $62.94.

Gold was up a tad at $1,776.7 an ounce XAU=.
Source: Reuters (Editing by Michael Perry and Sam Holmes)

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