Asian Shares Fall On Covid Worries

Asian stocks fell broadly on Thursday as investors fretted over a continued surge in coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Europe as well as different logistical challenges in distributing vaccines.

Chinese shares fell slightly after U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the U.S. would “continue to utilize all the powers granted” under various laws and “identify and sanction those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.”

The warning came after China’s top legislative body passed a resolution allowing for the disqualification of any Hong Kong lawmakers who were not deemed sufficiently loyal.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipped 3.52 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,338.68, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 57.60 points, or 0.2 percent, at 26,169.38.

Meanwhile, Japanese share rose notably to close near a 29-1/2-year high as investors switched back to technology stocks. The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 171.28 points, or 0.7 percent, to 25,520.88, after reaching as high as 25,587.96 earlier in the session.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group advanced 1.5 percent, while gaming giant Nintendo surged 4.3 percent after four consecutive sessions of losses.

Sony gained 1.3 percent after the company unveiled its next-generation PlayStation 5 gaming console in major regions, including Japan and the U.S.

Department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings plunged 5 percent after reporting its largest consolidated net losses ever for the April to September period. Takashimaya gave up 4.8 percent and J.Front Retailing slumped 4.7 percent.

Japan core machinery orders declined more than expected in September, a government report showed today, weighing on the prospects of a sustained recovery in business investment.

Core machinery orders declined 4.4 percent on a monthly basis, in contrast to a 0.2 percent rise in August. This was the first decrease in three months and worse than economists’ forecast of a 0.7 percent drop. Year-on-year, core machinery orders were down 11.5 percent versus an expected fall of 11.6 percent.

Australian markets finished modestly lower, snapping a five-day rally. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 31.50 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,418.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 31.70 points, or 0.5 percent, at 6,619.40.

Santos fell 1.5 percent and Origin Energy declined 2 percent after sharp gains this week. Gold miners Northern Star Resources and Regis Resources fell over 1 percent after bullion prices dropped over 1 percent in the previous session, tracking a firmer dollar on hopes for a quick economic recovery.

Tech stocks followed their U.S. peers higher, with Xero gaining 0.6 percent after reporting a sharp rise in first-half net profit. Afterpay climbed 3.3 percent and Appen advanced 1.2 percent.

Telecom firm Telstra rallied 3 percent after announcing plans to split into three units. Broadcaster Nine Entertainment surged 5.1 percent after issuing an upbeat outlook.

Seoul stocks ended lower to snap an eight-day winning streak amid concerns over another round of lockdowns in some major European economies.

Closer to home, the daily caseload hovered above 100 for the fifth consecutive day due to imported cases and small cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province.

The benchmark Kospi slid 10.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 2,475.62 after having hit a more than two-year high the previous day on vaccine hopes.

New Zealand shares gave up early gains to end on a flat note after RBNZ Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby said the economy required less stimulus than it did in August. The benchmark NZX-50 Index inched up 4.99 points to 12,670.62, extending gains for the eighth straight session.

Overnight, U.S. stocks continued their post-election rally despite daily virus cases and hospitalizations hitting records.

The Dow Jones Industrial slipped 0.1 percent, while the S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 2 percent.

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