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Global shares gain despite pandemic, inflation fears

TOKYO

Global shares advanced Tuesday as investors snapped up bargains after recent sell-offs spurred by a worsening of the pandemic in some countries.

France’s CAC 40 gained 0.4% in early trading to 6,390.95, while Germany’s DAX gained 0.5% to 15,467.48. Britain’s FTSE 200 added 0.5% to 7,065.67. U.S. shares were set for gains, with Dow futures up 0.3% at 34.352.0. S&P 500 futures rose 0.4% to 4,172.88.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 2.1% to finish at 28,406.84. South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.2% to 3,173.05. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.6% to 77,066.00. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.4% to 28,593.81, while the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.3% to 3,529.01.

Regional markets shrugged off data showing Japan’s economy contracted at 5.1% annual pace in the last quarter as numbers of new coronavirus cases surged. Analysts expected the results and don’t expect improvements in the situation anytime soon.

Although Asia so far has fared better in curbing COVID-19 infections, compared to the U.S., South and Central America and parts of Europe, worries are growing about the latest surges in cases in India, Japan, Thailand and other countries.

Yeap Jung Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore, said Asian markets were seeking “to rebound from weakness over concerns on virus resurgences.”

The market has recently been swept up in worries about whether rising inflation will prove to be temporary or will endure. Prices are rising for everything from auto insurance to restaurant meals as the economy leaps out of last year’s pandemic-induced coma.

The fear is that the Federal Reserve will have to dial back the extensive support it’s providing to markets if inflation persists. That includes record-low interest rates and the monthly purchase of $120 billion in bonds meant to goose the job market and economy.

Higher interest rates drag on most of the stock market, but they are particularly painful for stocks considered the most expensive and those bid up for profits expected far into the future.

Blowout profit reports from tech titans and much of the rest of corporate America have helped validate a huge rally in stocks. The economy is gaining momentum strengthen as COVID-19 vaccinations roll out, and the S&P 500 roared to an 11.3% gain in the first four months of the year. That’s a bigger gain than the market has had in half of the last 20 years.

For all the worries about inflation, many professional investors are echoing the Federal Reserve in saying that they expect rising prices to be “transitory.” Many analysts also expect strong profit growth for companies to continue as the economy and job market improve. That should help to support stock prices, though it may not give a big further boost after shares surged last year when profits cratered.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 49 cents to $66.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 90 cents to $66.27 on Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 54 cents to $70.00 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged down to 108.87 Japanese yen from 109.21 yen late Monday. The euro cost $1.2216, up from $1.2153.

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