Asian stocks set for slight gains after Wall Street ends higher

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks were set for cautious gains on Friday after positive U.S. economic data and signs of progress in stimulus talks in Washington lifted Wall Street benchmarks.

FILE PHOTO: Men wearing protective face masks chat in front of a screen displaying Nikkei share average and world stock indexes outside a brokerage,in Tokyo, Japan October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

“There will be a positive bias to the opening tone in Asian trade,” said Tom Piotrowski, market analyst at Australian broker CommSec. “But regional investors won’t necessarily hang their hats on that outcome, the markets can move around quite quickly.”

In early Asian trade, futures for Japan’s Nikkei 225 index were up 0.3%.

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe were roughly flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were down 0.11%.

U.S. lawmakers were still trying to hammer out a roughly $2 trillion stimulus deal late on Thursday, with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had not spoken during the day.

U.S. economic data surprised to the upside, as jobless claims fell more than expected and existing home sales exceeded estimates to more than a 14-year high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.54%, and the S&P 500 gained 0.52%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite bumped up 0.19%.

U.S. President Donald Trump debates Democratic challenger Joe Biden Thursday night to try to close a gap in opinion polls before an election 12 days away.

The United States was also on the brink of a widespread coronavirus outbreak, with nearly two-thirds of states in a danger zone with six reporting record one-day increases in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday.

The dollar index ticked higher on Thursday, coming off a seven-week low, reflecting fading hopes for a coronavirus aid package ahead of the U.S. elections and fears about COVID-19 cases surging globally.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields rose to four-month highs on optimism about a stimulus deal.

Oil prices also ended higher, boosted by stimulus hopes, but did not fully recover from the prior session’s losses stemming from signs of deteriorating demand.

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sam Holmes