Asian Shares Mixed Despite Stimulus Optimism

Asian Shares Mixed Despite Stimulus Optimism

February 16, 2021

Asian stocks ended mixed on Tuesday as U.S. lawmakers edged closer to new stimulus for the world’s top economy and a senior Federal Reserve official shrugged off concerns that further fiscal stimulus might generate an unhealthy jump in inflation this year.

Chinese shares led regional gains as investors cheered Beijing’s latest reform measures for the stock market. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rallied 71.04 points, or 2 percent, to 3,603.49, finishing above the 3,600 level for the first time since December 2015. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index edged up 0.5 percent to 29,476.19.

Japanese shares rose for the third straight day to close at a fresh 30-year high, with sentiment underpinned by strong domestic corporate earnings and hopes for additional U.S. stimulus.

Meanwhile, with the European Union approving the first shipment of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine to Japan, the country hopes to begin vaccinating selected healthcare workers next week.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 117.43 points, or 0.4 percent, to 29,505.93, its highest closing level since August 3, 1990. The broader Topix finished marginally higher at 1,925.54. Mining, securities brokerage, and information and communication stocks led the gains.

Australian markets declined as earnings started to trickle in. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 59.50 points, or 0.9 percent, to 6,821.20, with financials and healthcare firms pacing the decliners. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 58.70 points, or 0.8 percent, at 7,102.10.

Energy stocks ended broadly lower despite oil prices hitting 13-month highs on the back of supply cuts by major producers and optimism over fuel demand recovery.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia gave up 1.4 percent ahead of its first-half results due on Wednesday. Healthcare stocks such as CSL, Resmed and Mesoblast slipped 1-3 percent.

Investment bank Macquarie Group surged 6.6 percent and fibre cement maker James Hardie rose over 1 percent after both reported strong quarterly numbers.

Australia’s business conditions weakened from the December high, while business confidence strengthened in January, survey results from the National Australia Bank showed today.

Seoul stocks ended lower for the second straight session as traders locked in profits ahead of the expiration of stock options and the Lunar New Year’s holiday.

The benchmark Kospi dipped 6.57 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 3,084.67, giving up earlier gains on optimism over progress in the U.S. stimulus talks.

Hyundai Motor climbed 1.1 percent after heavy losses in the previous session, while its affiliate Kia Motors declined 1.6 percent.

New Zealand shares tumbled, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index slumping 126.18 points, or 1 percent, to 12,927.69 as traders returned to their desks after a long holiday weekend.

Medical device manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Healthcare lost 2.8 percent, while travel and expenses software firm Serko plunged 3.5 percent.

U.S. stocks hit fresh record closing highs overnight as investors held out hopes of a robust stimulus package. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.7 percent.

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