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Global markets firmer on Biden inauguration

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    Agence France-Presse

London   /   Wed, January 20, 2021   /   08:22 pm
Global markets firmer on Biden inauguration Two US Marines take up positions on the West Front of the US Capitol as preparations are made prior to the 59th inaugural ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. (AFP/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

World stock markets mostly rose Wednesday as investors awaited the inauguration of Joe Biden and took heart from comments by his Treasury nominee Janet Yellen on pushing through the new president's coronavirus stimulus package.

In early afternoon deals, Frankfurt rose 0.5 percent and Paris 0.3 percent while London was flat as the pound hit a new 2.5-year peak at $1.3728.

Asia enjoyed a broadly positive session, after bumper gains on Wall Street following a long weekend break.

The euro meanwhile sagged against the dollar as dealers eyed Italy's political turmoil on the eve of an interest rate decision from the European Central Bank.

Later on Wednesday, Biden will be sworn in as the 46th US president, drawing a curtain on the most tumultuous administration of modern times and charting a new course to tackle Covid-19 and unite a splintered nation.

Outgoing President Donald Trump, whose efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and console its victims have been widely criticized, will snub the ceremony.

"The pomp and ceremony of inauguration day has come with a similarly chipper outlook," said IG analyst Joshua Mahony.

"European markets... (are) looking forward with optimism, with Joe Biden's inauguration marking the end of a four-year period that married up both Brexit and global trade uncertainty.

"With Trump and Brexit negotiations in the rear-view mirror, markets are faced with a four-year stint of greater stability and less uncertainty."

Investors set aside concerns over the Covid-19 crisis -- although the disease continues to cast a  shadow as governments keep lockdowns in place.

While all eyes are on Biden's inauguration, Yellen took center stage Tuesday as she was grilled by senators for her Treasury secretary confirmation hearing.

She did not disappoint. In comments flagged beforehand, Yellen said that in order to give the world's top economy the best chance for recovery, lawmakers must pass the new administration's $1.9 trillion spending package.

Yellen meanwhile reasserted the president-elect's intention to keep the pressure on China.

She told lawmakers on Tuesday that China was "our most important strategic competitor" and accused it of "undercutting American companies" by offering illegal subsidies, dumping products at below-market prices, stealing intellectual property and erecting barriers to US exports.

The comments suggest the new administration intends to maintain pressure on Beijing, after Trump kicked off a trade war between the two superpowers.

However, secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken separately told senators that while he thought "Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China... I disagree very much with the way he went about it in a number of areas".