Asian Shares Fall On Risk Aversion

Asian stocks fell broadly on Tuesday as Brexit trade talks continued in Brussels and the rampant spread of a new variant of the coronavirus renewed fears of another pandemic.

More than 40 countries have banned U.K. arrivals amid fears over the coronavirus mutation that was first identified in Britain.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 63.79 points, or 1.9 percent, to 3,356.78 as the United States issued additional visa restrictions on Chinese officials believed to have engaged in alleged human rights abuses and blamed Russia for an ambitious espionage operation. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 187.43 points, or 0.7 percent, at 26,119.25.

Japanese shares hit a three-week low on fears the new virus strain could slow the economic recovery. Rising concerns over domestic virus infections and profit taking ahead of year-end holidays also weighed on markets.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Monday asked all residents to celebrate Christmas and New Year at home with just their families.

The Nikkei 225 Index fell 278.03 points, or 1 percent, to 26,436.39, its lowest close since late November. The broader Topix closed 1.6 percent lower at 1,761.12.

Fujifilm Holdings plunged 6 percent after government officials deferred approval of its Avigan treatment for Covid-19. Oriental Land dropped 2.4 percent on a Nikkei report that Mitsui Fudosan reduced its stake in the Tokyo Disney Resort operator.

Australian markets fell sharply as concerns about a new highly transmissible coronavirus strain identified in the U.K. dented investors’ appetite for riskier assets.

The new coronavirus strain, which is said to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original, led to a shutdown of much of Britain and set off tighter restrictions in Europe.

Investors ignored official data showing that Australia’s total value of retail sales spiked a seasonally adjusted 7.0 percent month-on-month in November.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 70.30 points, or 1.1 percent, to 6,599.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 74.50 points, or 1.1 percent, at 6,845.50.

Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Santos fell over 3 percent as oil extended steep overnight losses on worries about a slower recovery in fuel demand.

Evolution Mining and Newcrest declined more than 2 percent each after bullion prices fell more than 1 percent in the previous session. Ramelius Resources slumped 6 percent and Silver Lake Resources plummeted 6.8 percent.

MGC Pharmaceuticals soared 8.3 percent after it received a cash grant from the government of Malta’s enterprise fund toward its manufacturing facility on the Mediterranean island nation.

Seoul stocks tumbled amid concerns over rising Covid-19 cases at home and abroad. The benchmark Kospi ended down 44.97 points, or 1.6 percent, at 2,733.68 after closing at a record high in the previous session.

Foreigners sold shares worth a net 150 billion won, extending their selling streak to a fourth session as the government rolled out additional antivirus measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 1 percent, while No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix shed 3 percent. Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics gave up 2.4 percent and leading chemical maker LG Chem declined 2.2 percent.

New Zealand shares bucked the weak regional trend to post strong gains as investors cheered the country’s least virus-infected status. The benchmark NZX-50 Index rallied 234.95 points, or 1.9 percent, to 12,842.69.

Pacific Edge, which recently secured large commercial contracts in the United States, soared 7.9 percent. Mercury NZ jumped 4.8 percent.

U.S. stocks recovered from an initial sell-off to end mixed overnight as investors weighed concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus against an agreement on a second pandemic relief bill.

Nike’s upbeat quarterly results and the Fed’s announcement that the nation’s largest banks will be allowed to resume share repurchases in the first quarter of 2021 also offered some support.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.1 percent higher after losing over 400 points in early trading. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged down 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.4 percent.

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