Asian Shares Fall As Trump Tests Positive For Covid-19

Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Friday as U.S. President Donald Trump tested positive for the novel coronavirus and caution prevailed ahead of the release of U.S. jobs data later in the day.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $2.2 trillion Democratic coronavirus stimulus plan on Thursday night, but the move failed to break the political deadlock over additional relief for the world’s largest economy.

Japanese stocks closed lower as trading resumed following Thursday’s market shutdown caused by a technical issue. The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 155.22 points, or 0.7 percent, at 23,029.90, with pharma, mining and electric power companies pacing the decliners.

The broader Topix closed 1 percent lower at 1,609.22. Market heavyweight SoftBank Group rose 0.8 percent and Fast Retailing gained 1 percent.

The unemployment rate in Japan came in at a seasonally adjusted 3.0 percent in August, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said. That was in line with expectations and up from 2.9 percent in July.

The number of employed persons in August was 66.76 million, a decrease of 750,000 from the previous year.

Australian markets fell notably amid broad-based selling after snapping a three-day losing streak on Thursday

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled 81.40 points, or 1.4 percent, to 5,791.50, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 86.20 points, or 1.4 percent, at 5,983.20.

Santos, Beach Energy and Oil Search slumped 5-6 percent after an overnight tumble in oil prices.

Biotech firm Mesoblast plummeted over 37 percent after U.S. health authorities did not approve its therapy to treat a rare disease.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gave up 2-3 percent, while banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac fell around 2 percent.

In economic news, a government report showed the total value of retail sales in Australia was down a seasonally adjusted 4.0 percent sequentially in August, coming in at A$29.481 billion. That beat forecasts for a drop of 4.2 percent following the 3.2 percent gain in July.

New Zealand shares swung between gains and losses before finishing marginally higher. Serko paced the gainers to end 5.8 percent higher.

Markets in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong were closed on Friday for the Mid-Autumn Festival, while the South Korean market was closed for the Chuseok Festival.

U.S. stocks ended a choppy session higher overnight as stimulus hopes outweighed weak jobless claims, consumer spending and manufacturing data.

The White House countered House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion package with a $1.5 trillion-plus proposal but there are still major differences to be bridged in key areas.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.4 percent and the S&P 500 gained half a percent, while the Dow inched up 0.1 percent.

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