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GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian markets offer mixed signals as investors juggle stimulus, pandemic

WASHINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Asian markets pointed to a mixed open on Wednesday, as investors juggle the prospects for an economic comeback and additional stimulus with continued pandemic concerns.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.06% in early trading, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures were up 0.12%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were down 0.37%.

The tentative open comes after a mixed finish on Wall Street. The expectation that U.S. policymakers will stick with significant fiscal and monetary stimulus helped drive stocks higher and spur a sell-off in bonds. Concerns over rising interest rates weighed on some sectors.

“U.S. markets started the week in an optimist mode after being closed for Presidents Day on Monday,” wrote ANZ analysts in a research note. “As inflation expectations rise, investors are looking to reduce their exposure to fixed income in favour of investments which will rise with any wave of inflation.”

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average scored another record closing high on Tuesday, climbing 0.2%. The S&P 500 fell 0.06%, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.34%.

The MSCI’s global stock index was down 0.1%.

The surge came as the United States continued to ramp up vaccine distribution and President Joe Biden pitched his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.

The continued rise of bitcoin added to the bullish appetite, after the cryptocurrency briefly cleared $50,000 for the first time.

The U.S. dollar bounced back from three-week lows, boosted by rising Treasury yields. Against a basket of global rivals , the dollar gained 0.21%.

On Tuesday, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield rose above 1.3% for the first time since the pandemic took hold. The steepening yield curve reflected expectations of ongoing fiscal and monetary stimulus.

A deep freeze across the U.S. South that shut down wells and refineries helped push oil prices to near 13-month highs on Tuesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled up 1%, and Brent settled up 0.1%.

Investors will be eyeing fresh U.S. retail sales data on Wednesday for any signs of recovery, as well as newly published minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January policy meeting.

Earnings reports this week from Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc, Hyatt Hotels Corp and Marriott International Inc will also be scrutinized for signs of a pickup in global travel demand.

Spot gold fell 1.2% on Tuesday, with U.S. gold futures settling down 1.3% as investors veered away from the safe haven.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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