Asian Shares Mixed As Omicron Worries Persist

Asian Shares Mixed As Omicron Worries Persist

December 11, 2021

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday, as investors weighed some better than expected readings on the U.S. economy against hawkish Fed comments on inflation and news that the first case of the Omicron variant had been found in California.

Chinese shares ended on a flat note after reports the country is planning to ban companies from going public on foreign stock markets through variable interest entities. The China Securities Regulatory Commission has denied the report.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 130.01 points, or 0.6 percent, to 23,788.93 amid signs that Beijing is marginally easing liquidity strains on the cash-strapped property sector.

Japanese stocks ended notably lower as investors fretted over the effects of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on the global economic recovery.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 182.25 points, or 0.7 percent, to 27,753.37, while the broader Topix closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,926.37, dragged down by mining, air transportation, energy, retail and precision instrument stocks.

Australian shares hit two-month lows, reflecting jitters over new findings about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 10.70 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,225.20, marking its weakest level since October 6 as state governments tightened domestic border controls. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 21.70 points, or 0.3 percent, at 7,536.10.

Technology stocks succumbed to heavy selling pressure, with heavyweight Afterpay plunging 6.1 percent to hit a four-month low after delaying a shareholder vote on its US$29 billion deal with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey-led Square.

Utilities and industrial stocks advanced, with Transurban Group and AGL Energy climbing 2 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Australian Pharmaceutical Industries jumped 6 percent after Woolworths Group joined the tussle for the pharmacy chain.

Seoul stocks rallied for the second straight session on the back of strong foreign buying in semiconductor-related stocks. The Kospi jumped 45.55 points, or 1.6 percent, to close at 2,945.27. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics advanced 1.9 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix added 3 percent.

South Korea’s economy grew at the same pace as earlier forecast in the third quarter of the year despite better than expected private consumption and robust exports, central bank data showed. Another report showed inflation in the country accelerated to the fastest pace since 2011.

New Zealand shares ended lower as investors assessed how much damage the newest coronavirus variant will do to the economy. The benchmark NX-50 Index slipped 54.05 points, or 0.4 percent, to finish at 12,670.24. Travel-related stocks fell, with Air New Zealand ending 1.3 percent lower.

U.S. stocks reversed early gains to end sharply lower overnight as health officials confirmed the first case of the omicron Covid-19 variant in California and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the risks of persistent elevated inflation have “clearly risen.”

On the data front, readings on private sector employment and manufacturing painted a positive picture of the world’s largest economy.

The Dow fell 1.3 percent to hit a nearly two-month closing low, while the S&P 500 dropped 1.2 percent and the Nasdaq Composite shed 1.8 percent to reach their lowest closing levels in over a month.

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