Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Virus Woes

Asian stock markets are trading mostly lower on Thursday, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, amid concerns that the rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus may slow the global economic recovery. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book said U.S. economic growth downshifted slightly to a moderate pace in early July through August. Asian markets closed mixed on Wednesday.

The Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in each of the twelve Fed districts, also said inflation was reported to be steady at an elevated pace.

The Australian stock market is sharply lower on Thursday, extending the losses in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying a tad above the 7,400 level, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, as traders remain spooked amid the worsening domestic coronavirus situation, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, which is hindering economic activity.

NSW has reported 1,405 new local cases of COVID-19 and five deaths on Wednesday, with Melbourne and Sydney, two of the largest cities, and regional areas still under tougher restrictions and lockdowns. Victoria recorded 324 new locally acquired cases, with active cases now totaling 2,166 across the state.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 111.10 points or 1.48 percent to 7,400.90, after hitting a low of 7,396.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 112.40 points or 1.44 percent to 7,695.10. Australian markets ended slightly lower on Wednesday.

Among major miners, Rio Tinto is losing almost 2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is down almost 1 percent. OZ Minerals is declining almost 3 percent and BHP Group and Mineral Resources are down more than 1 percent each.

Oil stocks are lower. Beach Energy and Woodside Petroleum are declining almost 1 percent each, while Origin Energy is edging down 0.3 percent, Woodside Petroleum is losing more than 1 percent, Oil Search is down more than 1 percent and Santos is losing almost 2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Ban, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Westpac are all losing almost 1 percent each.

In the tech space, Xero and Appen are losing more than 1 percent each, while Afterpay is declining almost 3 percent. WiseTech Global is edging up 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are mostly lower. Evolution Mining is edging down 0.3 percent and Resolute Mining is declining almost 3 percent, while Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources are down 0.4 percent each. Gold Road Resources is flat.

In other news, shares in Epsilon Healthcare are soaring almost 17 percent after the cannabis producer inked a five-year partnership with Canadian biotech Valens, giving it access to 85 percent of production capacity at Epsilon’s Queensland cannabis production facility.

Shares in Weebit Nano are soaring 41 percent after the semiconductor tech firm inked its first ever commercial partnership with US-based semiconductor manufacturer Skywater Technologies, which will see Skywater use Weebit Nano’s ReRAM tech under licence.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.736 on Thursday.

The Japanese stock market is modestly lower on Thursday, snapping the winning streak of the previous seven sessions, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 staying above the 30,000 mark, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, as the nation continues its efforts to contain the unprecedented spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus continues, with economic activity being stifled in most of the cities in the country.

The government plans to extend its COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other prefectures until the end of this month, beyond the currently scheduled expiration on Sunday. The state of emergency is currently in place in 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

However, the government looking to relax COVID-19 curbs on travel, large-scale events and the serving of alcohol around November, provided that people are mostly vaccinated.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 30,041.33, down 139.88 points or 0.46 percent, after hitting a low of 29,959.21 earlier. Japanese shares ended significantly higher on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is losing almost 3 percent and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is down almost 1 percent. Among automakers, Toyota is edging down 0.6 percent and Honda is losing almost 2 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is gaining 1.5 percent and Tokyo Electron is adding almost 1 percent, while Screen Holdings is flat.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial and Mizuho Financial are losing almost 1 percent each, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are mixed. Sony is edging up 0.2 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is gaining almost 1 percent, while Panasonic is losing more than 1 percent, and Canon is edging down 0.1 percent.

Among the other major losers, NEXON is losing more than 4 percent, while Shionogi & Co. and Ebara are down more than 3 percent each. T&D Holdings, Z Holdings and Obayashi are declining almost 3 percent each.

Conversely, Tokyo Electric Power is soaring more than 12 percent, while Kansai Electric Power and Toho Zinc are down more than 5 percent each. Chubu Electric Power and Osaka Gas are declining almost 3 percent each

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 110 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is losing 1.2 percent, while New Zealand, China, Malaysia and South Korea are lower by between 0.1 and 0.8 percent each. Singapore and Indonesia are bucking the trend and are gaining 0.3 percent each. Taiwan is relatively flat.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly lower during trading on Wednesday following the mixed performance seen in the previous session. With the drop on the day, the tech-heavy Nasdaq pulled back off yesterday’s record closing high.

The major averages all finished the day in negative territory. The Dow dipped 68.93 points or 0.2 percent to 35,031.07, the Nasdaq slid 87.69 points or 0.6 percent to 15,286.64 and the S&P 500 edged down 5.96 points or 0.1 percent to 4,514.07.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures settled higher on Wednesday as prices rose on reports of slow progress in the restoration of crude output in the Gulf of Mexico. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for October ended up $0.95 or 1.4 percent at $69.30 a barrel.

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