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GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian stocks rise after vaccine optimism drives Wall St to record highs

NEW YORK, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Asian markets were set to climb on Wednesday after Wall Street indexes closed at record highs as investors grow increasingly hopeful about a vaccine to combat rising COVID-19 cases and an economic recovery.

“We’ve had some positive leads, and a combination of optimism around the vaccine, and government and central bank stimulus remains in place,” said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets. “It’s a sweet spot for markets.”

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.09%. In early trade, Australia’s S&P ASX 200 also rose about 0.11%.

The futures contract for the Nikkei 225 index rose 0.15% on Wednesday while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures rose 0.31%.

Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech SE sought emergency approval of their vaccine candidate from the European regulator on Tuesday. Competitor Moderna Inc also applied for emergency approval from the European regulator on Tuesday.

Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine could be launched in the European Union as early as this month, though a European regulator clouded the schedule when it said it would complete its review of their vaccine by Dec. 29.

U.S. legislators also indicated progress on economic stimulus. Top U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Congress should include a new coronavirus stimulus in a $1.4 trillion spending bill aimed at heading off a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic.

U.S. Treasury yields surged on the news.

The dollar fell on Tuesday to its lowest level in more than 2-1/2 years as investor appetite for risk increased.

Oil prices extended losses to a second day on Tuesday after OPEC and its allies left markets in limbo by postponing a formal meeting to decide whether to lift output in January.

U.S. crude recently fell 0.54% to $44.31 per barrel and Brent was at $47.25, down 1.32% on the day.

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Sam Holmes