Gold Edges Higher As Dollar Weakens

Malaysia’s Islamic Authorities Say Covid-19 Vaccine Permissible

Malaysia’s religious authorities have decided that the coronavirus vaccine is allowed and is mandatory for some groups, Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said in a statement.

This view has been relayed to the Council of Rulers, he said on Wednesday, amid concern among local Muslims that the shots could contain substances forbidden by Islam.

The Special Muzakarah Committee of the National Council for Malaysian Islamic Affairs, which met on Dec. 3, is of the opinion that the vaccine must be administered to groups identified by the government, Zulkifli said.

“As such, I urge all Malaysians, especially Muslims, to abide by and give full trust to the government to manage the Covid-19 pandemic through the use of vaccines,” he said.

He added that the usage of vaccines to protect Muslims from dangerous diseases was not unusual in Islamic law. National Islamic authorities had already allowed six such instances between 1988 to 2013, he said.

Danes Now Richer Than Before Pandemic With $930 Billion Fortune

Danes are now richer than ever after their financial wealth surpassed the level before the pandemic.

Danish households had net financial assets — mainly in the form of stocks and bonds — of 5.66 trillion kroner ($930 billion) in the third quarter, the central bank in Copenhagen said in areport on Wednesday.

In the last two quarters, financial wealth increased by a combined 709 billion kroner, more than offsetting the record 541 billion-krone drop in the first quarter when the pandemic rattled financial markets.

The central bank said that financial wealth is set to increase to a new record in the fourth quarter as markets have continued to rise. That should help overcome the negative effect of a new lockdown imposed by the Danish government this month, in an attempt to fight rising virus numbers.

Average household wealth is around 2 million kroner, but most families have less than that, the central bank said. Looking just at pension savings, 43% are held by 10% of the population.

Read more: Danes Head Into Lockdown Over Christmas as Covid Cases Soar

Rupee settles 8 paise higher at 73.76 against U.S. dollar

The rupee snapped its two-day losing streak to settle higher by 8 paise at 73.76 (provisional) against the U.S. dollar on December 23, tracking strong domestic equities and sustained foreign fund inflows.

At the interbank forex market, the local unit opened at 73.89 against the greenback and witnessed an intra-day high of 73.73 and a low of 73.90.

It finally ended at 73.76 against the American currency, registering a rise of 8 paise over its previous close. On December 22, rupee had settled at 73.84 against the American currency.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, fell 0.29% to 90.39.

On the domestic equity market front, the BSE Sensex ended 437.49 points or 0.95% higher at 46,444.18, while the broader NSE Nifty advanced 143.85 points or 1% to 13,610.15.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers in the capital market as they purchased shares worth ₹1,153.00 crore on a net basis on December 22, according to provisional exchange data.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.02% to $50.09 per barrel.

Treasury yields climb after Trump threatens to derail stimulus bill

U.S. government debt prices were lower on Wednesday after President Donald Trump suggested he may not sign a long-delayed coronavirus relief package. 

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note climbed to 0.921%, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was slightly higher at 1.655%. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

Trump on Tuesday poured cold water on the $900 billion Covid relief bill passed by Congress earlier this week. He called the measure an unsuitable "disgrace" and urged lawmakers to make a number of changes, including larger direct payments to individuals and families.

The current package includes a boost to jobless benefits, more small business loans, another $600 direct payment and funds to streamline critical distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. However, Trump was unhappy with the $600 direct payments, calling for them to be increased to $2,000.

Investors have also been unnerved this week by a new coronavirus strain first identified by the U.K. The variant is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible than previous strains.

In terms of economic data, durable goods, jobless claims, personal income and outlays, new home sales, consumer sentiment and FHFA house price index reports are scheduled to be released Wednesday.

Gold Edges Higher As Dollar Weakens

Gold prices edged higher on Wednesday as the dollar edged lower on the back of weak U.S. data released overnight and amid signs of progress in Brexit trade talks.

Investors remain optimistic about a U.S. stimulus package despite President Donald Trump threatening a veto unless Congress makes major changes to the omnibus spending package and Covid-19 relief bill.

“Congress did its job this week and I can and I must ask them to do it again next year,” President-elect Joe Biden reportedly said in a year-end news conference.

Spot gold rose half a percent to $1,868.79 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.1 percent at $1,872.40.

The National Association of Realtors released a report overnight showing existing home sales in the United States pulled back in the month of November.

The Conference Board released another report showing consumer confidence in the U.S. has unexpectedly decreased in the month of December.

Worries are mounting that a new strain of fast-spreading coronavirus discovered in Britain could derail the global economic recovery.

Political editor Robert Peston said a trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union is possible on Wednesday after progress in talks on fishing rights.

The EU is making a “final push” to strike a trade deal with Britain, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday before meeting EU ambassadors in Brussels.

I’m still reasonably optimistic but there’s no news to report to you this morning,” British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News as the outstanding issues on fisheries prove “very difficult” to overcome.