Morning BriefAsia – Pacific Stocks Mixed, Hyundai Motors Continues Rally in South Korea

South Korea’s Kospi led gains among the region’s major markets, rising 2.61% to close at 3,092.66 as shares of automaker Hyundai Motor surged 8.51%.
A trader sits and watches the screen at the Shanghai Stock Exchange [Image: Bloomberg]

Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Tuesday as investors awaited remarks from U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen.

South Korea’s Kospi led gains among the region’s major markets, rising 2.61% to close at 3,092.66 as shares of automaker Hyundai Motor surged 8.51%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also saw strong gains as it jumped 2.14%, as of its final hour of trading. Shares of HSBC listed in the city rose 3.33% while life insurer AIA surged 3.07%.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced an extension of social distancing measures in the city after coronavirus infections returned to triple digits, according to Reuters.

Mainland Chinese stocks, on the other hand, lagged as they closed lower: The Shanghai composite declined 0.83% to 3,566.38 while the Shenzhen component dropped 1.737% to about 15,003.99.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 jumped 1.39% to close at 28,633.46 while the Topix index advanced 0.56% to finish its trading day at 1,855.84.

Shares in Australia saw gains, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 1.19% to close at 6,742.60. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.32%.

Former Federal Reserve Chair Yellen will tell the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the country is headed for a major recession unless they “act big,” according to a copy of her prepared remarks obtained by NBC News.

“Neither the President-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs,” Yellen will say.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that Yellen is expected to make clear that the U.S. doesn’t seek a weaker dollar.

On the coronavirus front, the head of the World Health Organization warned Monday of a “catastrophic moral failure” due to unfair vaccine rollouts.

Markets stateside were closed on Monday for a holiday.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.688 — higher then levels below 90.4 seen last week.

The Japanese yen was at 104.06 per dollar following an earlier high of 103.64 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7704, off levels above $0.775 seen late last week.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.88% to $55.23 per barrel. U.S. crude futures gained 0.17% to $52.45 per barrel.

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