SYDNEY, RAW – Asian shares have hovered near one-and-a-half week highs helped by expectations monetary policy will remain accommodative the world over, while vaccine rollouts help ease fears of another wave of infections.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was at 695.59 early on Monday, within striking distance of Friday’s high of 696.48 – a level not seen since April 7.

The index jumped 1.2 per cent last week and is up 5 per cent so far this year, on track for its third straight yearly gain.

“The extremely supportive monetary and fiscal policy setting continues to provide a fertile environment for risk assets,” said Rodrigo Catril at National Australia Bank.

Australian shares were 0.25 per cent higher while New Zealand’s benchmark index and South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.4 per cent each. Japan’s Nikkei eased 0.4 per cent.

On Friday, the S&P 500 gained 0.4 per cent to close at a new record high while clocking its sixth straight weekly gain.

The Dow finished 0.5 per cent, also at a record high while the Nasdaq climbed 0.1 per cent.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.3 per cent in early Asian trading.

This week is off to a quiet start with no major data releases on Monday.

Investors will keep their eyes peeled for earnings from IBM and Coca-Cola later in the day.

Netflix reports on Tuesday while later in the week American Airlines and Southwest will be the first major post-COVID cyclicals to post results.

The European Central Bank meets on Thursday with no changes to rates or guidance expected while preliminary data on factory activity around the globe for April is due on Friday.

Elsewhere, Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, recouped most of its losses after plunging as much as 14 per cent on Sunday following speculation the US Treasury may be looking at cracking down on money-laundering activity within digital assets, NAB’s Catril said.

Data website CoinMarketCap cited a blackout in China’s Xinjiang region, which reportedly powers a lot of bitcoin mining, for the sell-off.

The retreat in Bitcoin also comes after Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies for purchases on Friday.

Bitcoin is up more than 90 per cent year to date, driven by acceptance as an investment and means of payment, accompanied by the rush of retail cash into stocks, exchange-traded funds and other risky assets.

The US dollar loitered near a four-week low against a basket of currencies as investors increasingly bought into the Federal Reserve’s insistence it would keep an accommodative policy stance for a while longer.

The dollar index measuring the greenback against a basket of six currencies was unchanged at 91.612, not far from its lowest since March 18 touched on Friday.

Against the Japanese yen, the greenback was off a touch at 108.72. The euro was a tad lower at $1.1966 while the British pound eased 0.07 per cent to $1.3820.

The risk-sensitive Aussie dollar slipped for a second straight day to be down 0.2 per cent at $0.7715.

In commodities, oil prices were down with the Brent slipping 34 cents to $US66.43 a barrel and US crude falling 29 cents to $US62.84.

Gold was up 0.2 per cent at $US1,779.3 an ounce.