Asia – Pacific Stocks Decline as Investors Worry on Rising Global Coronavirus Numbers
Stocks in Asia-Pacific were lower on Tuesday as concerns over a coronavirus surge in multiple countries dulled optimism over the vaccine rollout in the U.S.
Mainland Chinese markets were mixed on the day: The Shanghai composite dipped fractionally to 3,367.23 while the Shenzhen component gained 0.52% to 13,763.31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was about 0.6% lower, as of its final hour of trading.
China’s industrial production grew 7% year-on-year in November, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics announced Tuesday. That was in line with expectations from a Reuters poll. Meanwhile, retail sales in China increased 5% in November as compared with a year ago, missing forecasts for a 5.2% increase by analysts in a Reuters poll.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dipped 0.17% to close at 26,687.84 while the Topix index slipped 0.47% to finish its trading day at 1,782.05. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.19% to close at 2,756.82.
Shares in Australia were also lower, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.43% to close at 6,631.30. Minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia’s December policy meeting released Tuesday warned of the possibility of “an extended period of high unemployment” as it would take time for output to reach its pre-pandemic level.
“The high unemployment rate and excess capacity across the economy more broadly were expected to result in subdued wages growth and inflation over coming years. Given this environment, the Board viewed addressing the high rate of unemployment as an important national priority,” the minutes said.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan declined 0.39%.
Shares of Australian coal miners sank on Tuesday. Whitehaven Coal dropped 5.88%, Coronado Global Resources plunged 10.04% while Yancoal fell 8.43%. Major miner BHP also saw its stock drop 2.25%.
The declines came after Chinese state media reported that China’s top economic planner has approved power plants to import coal without clearance restrictions “except for Australia.” On Tuesday, Australia’s prime minister said it was seeking clarification from China about the reports.
The two countries have been locked in a trade dispute for months, with China slapping tariffs on Australian products ranging from barley to wine.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll topped 300,000, outpacing every other country in the world by a margin of 100,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as Americans received some of the first shots of Pfizer’s vaccine. New York City’s mayor warned that the city could experience a “full shutdown” soon.
Elsewhere, London will be moved into England’s toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions from midnight on Wednesday morning.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.70 following an earlier bounce from levels below 90.6.
The Japanese yen traded at 104.05 per dollar after seeing levels below 103.8 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7526 following levels above $0.756 seen yesterday.
Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with Brent crude futures shedding 0.28% to $50.15 per barrel. U.S. crude futures dipped 0.23% to $46.88 per barrel.