Australian dollar rises to 2.5-year high, as bitcoin’s value triples and Wall Street closes at record high

Australian shares are expected to open steady, despite US markets hit record highs and the Australian dollar climbing to a fresh two-and-a-half-year high.

ASX futures were flat at 6,692 points by 8:00am AEDT.

The local currency rose (+0.6pc) to 76.23 US cents, largely due to a weaker greenback.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones gained 147 points (or 0.5 per cent) to close at its highest lever ever, 30,302 points.

The benchmark S&P 500 closed up 0.6 per cent to 3,722 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 0.8 per cent to 12,764 points. Both indices also closed at record highs.

US markets lifted as investors bet the US Government would need to pass a stimulus bill to bolster the economy in the face of rising unemployment and surging COVID-19 infections.

Last week, the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the US rose to a three-month high (885,000), according to official US data released overnight.

Data also shows manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region cooled this month, with factories reporting a sharp slowdown in new orders and job growth.

Meanwhile, Google is facing a third major lawsuit after a group of 38 US states and territories filed an antitrust complaint accusing the tech giant of seeking to extend its search monopoly to dominate smart speakers, televisions and cars.

The complaint focuses on Google’s search business and search advertising, as well as what they said was an effort by Google to use exclusionary agreements to dominate newer technologies.

The accusation builds on concerns publicly expressed by speaker maker Sonos and other companies that say Google has acted unfairly to grow its market power.

Bitcoin surges

Bitcoin has once again hit a new record, surging 10 per cent to $US23,655 ($AU31,031.7) overnight. The cryptocurrency has more than tripled in value this year.

Smaller coin ethereum, which often moves in tandem with bitcoin, was trading 1.6 per cent higher.

With bitcoin’s supply capped at 21 million, investors see in the cryptocurrency a hedge against the risk of inflation as governments and central banks turn on the stimulus taps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There will be a search for alternative currencies due to constant fiat money debasement,” Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a note.

“It does feel that bitcoin will continue to be in high demand.”

Brent crude oil rose (+0.7pc) to $US51.45 a barrel, its highest level in nine months.

Spot gold and iron ore also saw big jumps, with the precious metal hitting $1,886 an ounce (+1.2pc) and the steel-making ingredient up 1.3 per cent to $US158.5 a tonne.