* Asian stock markets : tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4
* MSCI ex-Japan up 0.26%, Nikkei climbs about 1%
* Pfizer could have coronavirus vaccine ready by end-2020
* Pelosi optimistic of U.S. fiscal aid before Nov elections
* Currencies tread water, oil slightly higher
SYDNEY, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Asian markets advanced toward a recent 2-1/2-year peak on Monday powered by hopes of a U.S fiscal package and expectations of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year, though weaker-than-expected Chinese data capped gains.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.6% for its second straight day of gains, paring back slightly following third-quarter gross domestic product data from China.
The index has risen in eight of the last 10 sessions amid a rally in risk assets buoyed by hopes of a coronavirus vaccine and expectations of a so-called “blue wave”, which would see the Democrats claim victory in November’s elections.
Chinese shares started higher though the blue-chip index pared gains after China’s GDP data missed forecasts, though separate monthly indicators pointed to an expansion in economic activity.
China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.9% in July-September from a year earlier, slower than the median forecast of 5.2%.
Monthly indicators beat forecasts - industrial output accelerated 6.9% in September from a year earlier, when analysts were looking for a 5.8% gain from a 5.6% rise in August. Retail sales edged up 3.3% last month from a year earlier against expectations for 1.8% growth.
“The rebound in Q3 GDP was less strong than expected, but was still a decent 4.9% YoY. September data beat expectations, suggesting a pickup in momentum towards the latter part of Q3,” said Frances Cheung, head of macro strategy for Asia at Westpac in Singapore.
“The pickup in momentum was broad-based, which bodes well for the Q4 outlook.”
Japan’s Nikkei and Australia’s benchmark index were each up 1.1%.
Boosting overall sentiment, drugmaker Pfizer Inc said on Friday it could have a coronavirus vaccine ready in the United States by the end of this year.
E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 jumped 0.6% in Asian trading after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday she was optimistic legislation on a wide-ranging coronavirus relief package could be pushed through before the election.
But with her negotiating partner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in the Middle East until Tuesday, such a timeframe would seem to be overly optimistic, analysts said.
Investors are also concerned about rising coronavirus cases to help curb the spread of the disease.
Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.
Later in the week, key risk events include minutes of Australia’s central bank meeting, the final U.S. presidential debate and global manufacturing indicators.
Action in currencies was muted with the U.S. dollar, usually perceived as a safe-haven asset, flat at 93.696 against a basket of six major currencies.
The euro slightly weaker at $1.1712.
Sterling was slightly higher though it was still near two-week lows after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told businesses to get ready for a no-deal Brexit in case negotiations with the European Union fail to produce a free trade agreement.
“EU-UK trade talks are flirting with collapse,” ANZ economists said.
“UK Prime Minister Johnson said the UK needs to prepare for a no-deal outcome, as both sides cannot agree on a Canada-style FTA. Talks resume in London on Monday, but without the political willingness to shift ground, there is little the negotiators can achieve.”
In commodities, Brent crude futures slipped 14 cents to $42.79 a barrel, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 14 cents to $40.74 a barrel.
Spot gold was a shade firmer at $1,900.8 an ounce.
Editing by Sam Holmes and Gerry Doyle
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