Asian share markets mostly higher despite Omicron threat
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Asian share markets were broadly up on Wednesday as the risk appetite of global investors rises heading into year-end, despite the surging number of Omicron COVID-19 variant cases around the world.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.24% in afternoon trade, having been higher earlier in the day.
Australian shares closed up 0.13%, reversing a weaker start which analysts said was the result of a higher U.S. dollar overnight that reduced appetite for commodities and the sector’s related stocks.
Some weakness emerged in Northern Asian markets later in the day.
Japan’s Nikkei stock index was down 0.05% and the and China’s blue-chip CSI 300 Index was off 0.04%.
But in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index rose 0.27% after jumping 1.2% at the start of trade.
Futures trading pointed to a mixed performance in markets in other regions on Wednesday.
In early European trading, pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.43% at 4,172.5, while U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were down 0.1% at 4,636.
A better night on Wall Street provided the positive lead for Asian markets with a sharp rebound in sentiment for U.S stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 560.54 points, or 1.6%, to 35,492.7, the S&P 500 gained 81.21 points, or 1.78%, to 4,649.23 and the Nasdaq Composite added 360.14 points, or 2.4%, to 15,341.09.
The jump came despite growing concerns at the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in the lead-up to traditional holiday periods around the world.
“Investors are looking at the fundamentals of the global economy and there are a lot of positive indicators if you look at household balance sheets, consumption, corporate profits are high,” said Kerry Craig, JPMorgan Asset Management’s global market strategist.
“That is a positive for markets, and shows the fundamental picture of the economy is good and why people are keen to own assets like equities.”
The Omicron variant, first detected last month, is causing infections to double in 1.5 to 3 days, according to the World Health Organization. It is not yet known whether it causes more serious illness than the Delta variant.
However, Asian investors were mostly overlooking the current rise in case numbers.
“Clients are still happy to buy here despite the obvious risks both market- and health-related, mostly they are adding to their existing positions,” said John Milroy, an Ord Minnett advisor in Sydney told Reuters.
“After two years clients are weary of talking about it (COVID-19) and while acknowledging it are back to focusing on earnings which should be really good in our view.”
BOCOM International head of research Hong Hao said China-based investors were more focussed on potential supply-chain issues from any mainland COVID outbreaks.
“I would say investors are looking through the (COVID-19) case numbers as long as production capacity in China is not impacted,” he told Reuters.
“Investors seem to be more relaxed … in China, the biggest concern is still the property sector.”
In Asian trade, the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was at 1.46% compared with its U.S. close of 1.487% on Tuesday. The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 0.6626% compared with a U.S. close of 0.675%.
The dollar rose 0.04% against the yen to 114.13. It is still some distance from its high this year of 115.51, hit on Nov. 24. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, was up at 96.56.
U.S. crude ticked up 0.35% to $71.37 while Brent Crude rose to $74.07 per barrel.
Gold was slightly lower with the spot price trading at $1787.396 per ounce.
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