Stocks open higher on Wall Street, natural gas prices climb

Stocks are opening broadly higher on Wall Street, extending a push past the record highs they reached last week. The S&P 500 rose 0.3% in the early going on Tuesday. Energy companies and banks were posting some of the biggest gains. Natural gas prices jumped 8% to their highest level since November as a bitter winter storm left millions without power amid subfreezing temperatures. Safe-play sectors like real estate companies and utilities lagged the rest of the market as traders increased their appetite for risk. Treasury yields continued to climb, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 1.26%

Global shares advanced on Tuesday, lifted by the economic recovery, vaccine rollouts and signs that new coronavirus cases may be abating.

U.S. markets were closed Monday for Washington’s Birthday, a national holiday. Shanghai remains closed for the Lunar New Year, until Thursday.

France’s CAC 40 edged up nearly 0.2% to 5,795.86 in early trading, while Germany’s DAX added 0.1% to 14,126.81. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.3% to 6,774.58. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures adding 0.6% to 31,600. S&P 500 futures rose 0.5% to 3,950.88.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.3% to finish at 30,467.75, after closing the day before above 30,000 for the first time since August 1990. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng added 1.9% to 30,746.66. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.5% to 3,163.25, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.7% to 6,917.30.

Despite data that show regional economies have been hit hard by the pandemic, investors are still sending indexes ever higher. Analysts think Asian shares will continue to rally, cheered by the recent gains on the U.S. and European markets.

Hopes for a recovery are being driven partly by the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, said Prakash Sakpal, senior economist Asia at ING.

“Gains will still likely be capped as investors remain wary of newer strains of the variant, which may be more resilient to existing vaccines,” he added.

A vaccine rollout is starting soon in Japan, a nation that’s lagged behind the U.S. and Europe with the inoculations. It begins with about 20,000 medical workers, followed by 3.7 million more medical workers. The government’s goal is to have shots available for elderly people in April, and for everyone by June.

Government data earlier this week showed the Japanese economy has rebounded from the growth drop experienced earlier over COVID-19, but contracted for 2020 overall. It’s unclear whether the world’s third largest economy can stay on the growth track, as worries continue about an ongoing wave of infections.

Uncertainty about whether the Tokyo Olympics can go on in July, postponed from last year, with no foreign spectators or perhaps no spectators at all, is adding to the gloom.

Still, optimism remains over stimulus measures, including trillions of dollars more aid from the U.S. government. Some companies have released surprisingly strong earnings reports, adding to investor enthusiasm.

“Global equity markets remain on the climb into this week with the multitude of positive factors, including U.S. fiscal stimulus hopes, positive earnings and the vaccine rollout supporting sentiment,” said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore.

U.S. benchmarks ended last week at record highs.

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil added 63 cents to $60.10 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.23 to $59.47 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 15 cents to $63.45 per barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 105.51 Japanese yen from 105.39 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.2139 from $1.2131.

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