Asian Shares Fall As Covid Cases Spike

Asian stocks fell broadly on Monday, with a resurgence of coronavirus infections in the region and the possible restrictions on economic activity keeping underlying sentiment cautious.

Chinese shares fell after a top disease control official said over the weekend that the effectiveness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines was low and the government is considering mixing them to get a boost. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 37.73 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3,412.95.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 245.52 points, or 0.9 percent, at 28,453.28. Alibaba shares surged 6.5 percent after the e-commerce giant said it was fined $2.8 billion for anti-competitive behavior. The fine was less severe than many feared.

Japanese shares fell notably as the country struggles to get the fourth wave of infections under control ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics. The Nikkei 225 Index gave up 229.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 29,538.73, while the broader Topix ended 0.3 percent lower at 1,954.59.

Yaskawa Electric slumped 7.1 percent after its earnings outlook came in below analyst estimates. Other tech stocks such as Fanuc, Nitto Denko and Shin-Etsu Chemical lost 2-4 percent. Supermarket operator Aeon plunged 4.1 percent on disappointing earnings.

Toshiba soared 6.2 percent on a Nikkei report that state-backed Japan Investment Corp (JIC) and the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) would join a $20 billion takeover bid by CVC Capital Partners.

Australian markets ended lower after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he won’t set a new target date for all Australians to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine dose.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 21.20 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,974, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 27.10 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,225.20.

Weak iron ore and crude prices pulled down commodity-related stocks. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto fell 1 percent and half a percent, respectively while energy major Oil Search declined 1.5 percent.

Gold miners Evolution and Newcrest lost over 2 percent after gold prices tumbled on Friday. Healthcare stocks bucked the weak trend, with CSL rising 0.8 percent and Cochlear rallying 2.4 percent.

Seoul stocks edged up slightly despite lingering concerns over virus outbreaks as the country’s daily new coronavirus cases stayed in the 600s for the third consecutive day on Sunday.

The benchmark Kospi inched up 3.71 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,135.59. SK Innovation shares jumped 12 percent after the petroleum refining company reached a settlement in a trade dispute with rival LG Energy Sol.

New Zealand shares settled modestly lower, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index ending down 55.64 points, or 0.4 percent, at 12,518.71. Pacific Edge shares slumped 4.2 percent as chief executive David Darling announced his intention to retire from the cancer diagnostics company next year.

U.S. stocks rose on Friday as the Fed’s dovish tone, higher-than-expected inflation data and an uptick in Treasury yields added to investor optimism about an economic recovery.

Meanwhile, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control showed nearly 20 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Dow climbed 0.9 percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.8 percent to reach record closing highs, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose half a percent to reach its best closing level in almost two months.

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