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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks edge higher after $2tn US stimulus bill advances

China Overseas Land, Astro Malaysia among key movers on A300 index

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan rose Thursday as investors focused on the stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Senate and the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nikkei Asia300 index advanced 0.7% to 1,102.41.

Following intense negotiations, the U.S. Senate passed the $2 trillion fiscal stimulus bill to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The legislation seeks to provide for payouts to individuals below a particular income threshold, assistance to small businesses and companies, and more insurance benefits for the unemployed.

The bill will be taken by the House of Representatives and thereafter will have to be signed by President Donald Trump.

The relief bill follows more emergency measures by the Federal Reserve earlier this week to assist an economy suffering severely from the pandemic.

Known cases in the U.S. have surged in recent days with people diagnosed with the infection having tripled in the last three weeks to more than 66,000. More than 1,000 people have died.

Globally, new cases have doubled in a week to more than 450,000. Cases in Italy and Spain have increased, but at a slightly slower pace.

ING Bank said the question was whether the stimulus measures were sufficient to justify buying risk assets against the still spreading pandemic.

"The pandemic still looks to be on a runaway path, though there are some signs that some of the European hotspots are cooling very slightly," ING said.

"But with the piecemeal containment measures undertaken in the U.S. unlikely to be effective except locally, the prospects of a real problem for the U.S. still exist."

In movers on the A300 gauge on Thursday, China Overseas Land & Investment dropped 2.3%. The Hong Kong-listed property developer posted a 10.3% increase in net profit last year, aided by higher property development revenue.

Hong Kong-listed Hengan International Group, a Chinese personal hygiene products maker, dropped 2.8%. The company said Thursday its net profit last year increased 2.8% on year.

Astro Malaysia Holdings climbed 1.8% after the pay television operator's fourth-quarter net profit rose 17.3% on-year.

In Mumbai, Reliance Industries lost 0.6% after the stock surged 22% in the previous two sessions.

--Nimesh Vora

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