Asian Shares Retreat On Covid ConcernsMarch 31, 2021
Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Wednesday as investors remained wary of spikes in coronavirus cases in major economies, including Germany, France and Italy.
The sluggish vaccination campaign in Europe, sinking crude oil prices and increasing tensions between China and Western nations also rattled investors.
Chinese shares fell for the second straight day as policy tightening concerns persisted. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slumped 44.45 points, or 1.3 percent, to 3,367.06.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 2 percent to 27,918.14 as Hong Kong and Macau temporarily suspended Covid vaccines from BioNTech SE due to defective packaging.
Japanese shares extended losses for the fourth straight day as falling oil prices and concerns about the return of coronavirus lockdowns in Europe dented hopes of a broad economic recovery.
The Nikkei 225 Index plunged 590.40 points, or 2 percent, to 28,405.52, while the broader Topix closed 2.2 percent lower at 1,928.58, marking its biggest daily percentage decline since February 26.
Energy shares led the declines as Germany extended its lockdown measures by another month and imposed several new restrictions. Inpex Corp. lost 5.7 percent and Japan Petroleum lost 5.5 percent.
Nikon Corp. surged 6.4 percent on buzz it would benefit from U.S. semiconductor maker Intel’s move to greatly expand its advanced chip manufacturing capacity. Tokyo Electron climbed 5.1 percent.
On the economic front, the manufacturing sector in Japan expanded at a slightly faster pace in March, the latest survey from Jibun Bank showed, with a manufacturing PMI score of 52.0, up from 51.4 in February. The services PMI came in at 46.5, up from 45.8 in February.
Minutes from the Bank of Japan’s meeting on January 20 and 21 revealed that members are ready to maintain stimulus as long as necessary.
Australian markets recovered from a lackluster start to end modestly higher. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index inched up 33.40 points, or half a percent, to 6,778.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 27.30 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,013.90.
Santos dropped 1.5 percent after the oil and gas explorer said it expects to make a final investment decision on its Barossa project in the coming weeks. Origin Energy, Beach Energy, Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum fell 1-3 percent after crude oil prices sank overnight.
Miners ended mostly higher, with Rio Tinto climbing 1.8 percent, while gold miners Evolution Mining and Newcrest rose about 1 percent. Healthcare and tech stocks also finished broadly higher.
Westpac Banking fell about 1 percent after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand ordered the bank to conduct independent reviews and hold additional liquid assets due to problems with its risk governance and liquidity risk management.
In economic news, a survey showed the manufacturing sector in Australia expanded at a slightly faster pace in March, with a manufacturing PMI score of 57.0, up from 56.9 in February. The services PMI came in at 56.2, up from 53.4 in February.
Seoul stocks fell for the fourth straight day on concerns over the resurgence of virus cases in Europe and the United States. The benchmark Kospi slid 8.39 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,996.35, closing below the psychologically important 3,000-point threshold for the first time in two weeks.
Tech stocks such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix fell about 1 percent each, while automaker Hyundai Motor gave up 2.4 percent.
New Zealand shares drifted lower, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index ending down 35.46 points, or 0.3 percent, at 12,358.88 after data showed the country’s exports and imports both fell in February 2021.
U.S. stocks ended lower overnight as both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Fed Chair Jerome Powell sounded optimistic about growth but emphasized that the U.S. recovery from the pandemic is far from complete.
The Dow gave up 0.9 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.8 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 1.1 percent.
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