Asian Stock MarketsAsian Markets Edge Lower, South Korea Hikes Interest Rates

A woman walks past the kospi view in South Korea

Asia-Pacific markets mostly declined on Thursday despite overnight gains on Wall Street, while South Korea became the first major economy to raise interest rates during the pandemic.

The Bank of Korea raised its base rate by 25 basis points to 0.75% for the first time in nearly three years.

South Korean stocks were mixed. The benchmark Kospi fell 0.58% to 3,128.53 while the Kosdaq gained 0.26% to 1,020.44. The Korean won weakened against the dollar following the rate hike, trading at around 1,168.84.
asia markets
South Korea Kospi Performance Chart

“The virus situation in Korea has deteriorated since the central bank’s July meeting, when it gave strong signals that tightening was imminent. However, the economy has become increasingly resilient to outbreaks, as businesses have learned to live with the virus, adding that surging household debt and rising home prices are adding to financial stability issues.” Capital Economics wrote in a note before the announcement.

In Australia, the ASX 200 fell 0.54% to 7,491.20 as the Covid-19 situation in the country continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Daily reported Covid cases shot up to more than 1,000 on Thursday in the state of New South Wales alone — Reuters reported it was the first time since the pandemic started that Australia’s daily Covid numbers surpassed 1,000 cases. Two major hospitals in Sydney had to set up emergency outdoor tents to cope with the surge in patients, the news agency said.

Shares of Australia’s flag carrier Qantas rose 3.49%, beating the broader benchmark after CEO Alan Joyce said the airline plans to resume international travel by Christmas. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 finished near the flatline at 27,742.29, while the Topix index was little changed at 1,935.35.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 1.32% while the tech-heavy Hang Seng Tech Index fell 2.17% as shares of Alibaba dropped 1.4%, Meituan declined about 1%, and Apple supplier AAC Tech plunged 11%.

Chinese mainland share also declined. The Shanghai Composite fell 1.09% to 3,501.66 while the Shenzhen component was down 1.92% to 14,415.46.

Shares in India struggled for gains in the afternoon, as did stocks in Singapore and Indonesia, where the Jakarta Composite was down about 1%.

Asian Markets Currencies and Oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, dropped to 92.890, off levels above 93 earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.2, weakening from an earlier level around 109.90. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7264.

Oil prices fell during Asian trading hours. International benchmark Brent crude futures declined 1.26% to $71.34 per barrel. U.S. crude futures fell 1.39% to $67.43.

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