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A man works at the Tokyo Stock Exchange after market

By Hideyuki Sano

MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks, ACWI, was up slightly and European stocks are expected to open flat with both Euro Stoxx futures and Britain’s FTSE futures little changed.

Japan’s Nikkei jumped 1.8% as it reopened after a five-day holiday.

But MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.15% as Chinese shares, also resuming trade for the first time since last week, wobbled. The CSI300 fell 1.3%, led by falls in biotech firms.

China’s healthcare share index dropped more than 4% after U.S. President Joe Biden threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden’s move hit U.S. vaccine makers, too, including Moderna, but Wall Street was supported overall by gains in energy and other cyclical shares.

Dow hit a record high overnight, having risen 0.29%, while the S&P 500 added 0.07%.

“This year, both the U.S. and Chinese economy could grow 6% or more. If the world’s two biggest economies are growing that much, clearly that’s positive,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Against this backdrop, commodity prices are riding high, with copper flirting with 10-year peaks.

Oil prices extended gains to edge near their March tops as crude stockpiles in the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, fell more sharply than expected.

U.S. crude futures stood at $65.65 per barrel, little changed on the day but just below Wednesday’s two-month high of $66.76. [O/R]

As agricultural products such as corn, soybeans and wheat, have gained sharply in recent weeks, Thomson Reuters CRB index has risen to its highest level since 2015, having gained more than 21% so far this year.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES

Higher commodity prices are fuelling inflation expectations in the bond market.

The U.S. breakeven inflation rate, or inflation expectations calculated from the yield gap between inflation-linked bonds and conventional bonds, rose to as high as 2.48% overnight.

But the U.S. nominal bond yields held relatively stable, with the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield little changed at 1.584%.

“Bonds were supported partly because the pace of vaccinations has slowed in the States and as real-money investors are starting to buy,” said Naokazu Koshimizu, economist at Nomura Securities.

“The rise in inflation is also driven more by supply constraints than demand, which is why we are seeing rising inflation expectations and a fall in nominal yields,” he added.

In currencies, the Australian dollar briefly dropped as much as 0.6% after China said it was indefinitely suspending all activity under a China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, the latest setback for their strained relations.

It last stood down 0.15% at $0.7734

The British pound was flat at $1.3910 ahead of a central bank policy review.

The Bank of England could slow the pace of its bond buying to allow its quantitative easing programme to last until the end of the year, as it could reach the cap by September at the current pace of buying.

Investors also looked to Scotland’s election that could trigger a showdown with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over a new independence referendum.

Other currencies were little moved, with the focus on Friday’s U.S. monthly jobs report which is expected to show that nonfarm payrolls increased by 978,000 jobs last month.

The euro stood flat at $1.2004 while the yen changed hands at 109.35 per dollar.

(Editing by Himani Sarkar and Kim Coghill)

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