SINGAPORE (REUTERS) – Asian equities extended gains on Tuesday (Sept 15) and the US dollar slipped, with investor sentiment supported by Chinese data and optimism about Covid-19 vaccines.

Chinese blue chips added 0.4 per cent, buoyed by data showing China’s industrial output rose 5.6 per cent in August from a year ago, expanding for a fifth straight month.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.3 per cent, for a fourth straight day of gains.

Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.8 per cent, while South Korean shares rose 0.3 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.1 per cent.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index was up 0.6 per cent at 11:44am local time.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga won a landslide victory in a ruling party leadership election, paving the way for Japan’s first change of leader in nearly eight years.

Strategists expect Japanese equities to take support from Suga’s win.

“He’s seen as someone who’s particularly stock market friendly. The fact that we’ve got political certainty for the next two years from someone who’s connected to the free market is going to be good news for Japan,” said Jim McCafferty, joint head of Asia Pacific equity research at Nomura.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 slipped 0.3 per cent, while EUROSTOXX 50 futures eased 0.2 per cent

So far this year, gains in Asia have been led by technology stocks.

“From an asset class point of view, if you require to generate any income from your investment portfolio, then equities is one of the few places you can do that because bond yields are so low,” said McCafferty, who prefers North Asian companies due to their stronger balance sheets.

US retail sales figures from August are due Wednesday.

Investors will also look to central banks for direction, with the US Federal Reserve starting a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, the first since unveiling a landmark shift to a more tolerant stance on inflation in August.

The Bank of Japan and the Bank of England announce their respective policy decisions on Thursday.

Markets will be focused on projections from Fed policymakers on the US growth outlook and on any details about what the bank intends to do to encourage inflation.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 1.2 per cent and the S&P 500 rose 1.3 per cent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 1.9 per cent.

“We remain neutral stocks versus bonds as we balance extended equity valuations, fading fiscal support, and upcoming US election risks against still ultra-low interest rates and a gradually improving economic environment,” analysts at T. Rowe Price said in a global asset allocation report.

They favour cyclical exposure through small-cap and emerging markets equities, anticipating a gradual recovery as global economies emerge from coronavirus-related shutdowns.

US stocks gained after drugmaker AstraZeneca said it resumed its British clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development.

The dollar index slipped to 93.029, dipping further from a one-month high of 93.664 touched last week, with its low last week of 92.695 seen as an immediate support.

The euro ticked up to US$1.1867, having gained for four straight sessions until Monday.

Against the safe-haven yen, the dollar traded at 105.73 yen JPY=, having touched a two-week low of 105.55 yen on Monday.

Brent crude was down 3 cents, or 0.1 per cent, at US$39.58, reversing earlier gains. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 2 cents, or 0.1 per cent, at US$37.24 a barrel.

Gold prices put on 0.3 per cent, extending a sharp rise in the previous session.