Asian Shares Decline On Virus Worries

Asian stocks were moving lower in cautious trade on Monday, though the downside remained limited after U.S. Congressional leaders on Sunday reached a hard-fought agreement on a $900 billion stimulus package.

The deal offers temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans.

The agreement also includes a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

China’s Shanghai Composite index was up 0.6 percent after the country’s central bank kept its key benchmark lending rate unchanged.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.2 percent after more Covid-19 cases emerged from care homes and existing clusters.

The coronavirus situation in parts of North Asia such as Japan and South Korea remains severe, further weighing on sentiment.

Japan’s Nikkei index dropped 0.6 percent and the safe-haven yen strengthened as negotiations over a post-Brexit trade deal entered a “crucial” point and Britain imposed tough new restrictions to stem a fast-spreading new coronavirus strain.

The British pound and oil were also hit by fears over stuttering Brexit talks while gold gained ground on stimulus optimism.

South Korea’s Kospi average was down 0.3 percent as the country on Sunday reported 1,097 new coronavirus cases, the highest-ever single-day spike after staying above 1,000 for five straight days.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent as all Australian states and territories imposed travel restrictions on Sydney amid a growing cluster of coronavirus cases. New Zealand’s benchmark NZX-50 index was losing 0.6 percent.

U.S. stocks ended lower on Friday as investors waited for more concrete developments on a new fiscal stimulus bill along with a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both gave up around 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index finished marginally lower.

European stocks fell slightly on Friday as investors kept close watch on Brexit talks, U.S. stimulus negotiations and Covid-19 vaccine rollouts.

Moderna received the FDA nod for emergency use of its coronavirus vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson said it expects to release late-stage coronavirus vaccine data in January.

The pan European Stoxx 600 declined 0.4 percent. The German DAX and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 both eased around 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 index dropped 0.4 percent.

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