Asia stock markets mixed after Wall St high, virus surge

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Asian stock markets are mixed after Wall Street hit a record high and new daily US coronavirus cases surged

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Tokyo and Seoul declined while Shanghai and Hong Kong advanced.

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Wall Street reached its 70th record high of 2021 on Wednesday.

New US virus cases have risen by an average of 265,000 per day, driven largely by the more infectious Omicron variant, showing there was a temper of optimism.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8% to 3,626.58 after a deputy commerce minister said China’s overall trade is projected to grow 20% in 2021 from a year earlier.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo ended 0.3% lower at 28,826.41, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.2% to 23,134.88.

In Seoul, the Kospi fell 0.4% to 2,983.48, and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was down 0.3% at 2,981.24.

India’s Sensex gained 0.2% to open at 57,950.97. New Zealand and Bangkok gained while Singapore and Jakarta withdrew.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.1% to 4,793.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% to 36,488.63. The Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.1% to end at 15,766.22.

The S&P 500 is on track to gain more than 27% in 2021.

The benchmark, which also set a record on Monday and 23 December, reached a higher new high in 2021 than in any year since 77 in 1954. The Dow set a record in early November.

Investors have been encouraged by strong corporate profits and advances in vaccine development and virus treatments.

Stock prices have been boosted by the Federal Reserve’s decision to try to pacify US inflation, which is at a nearly four-decade high, by withdrawing the stimulus.

Biogen jumped 9.5% for the biggest gainer in the index. Target, Nike, supermarket operator Kroger and auto product retailer AutoZone rose 1.3% or more.

Facebook parent meta platform fell 0.9%, Exxon Mobil 0.9% and Morgan Stanley 1.2%.

Trading remained light as investors closed their positions for the year. Less than 3 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, compared to the normal daily average of 4.5 billion.

The researchers eased investor concerns about the Omicron version after saying it produced less severe symptoms and that President Joe Biden refrained from announcing travel or other restrictions that could weigh on economic activity.

Still, markets remain uncertain about the impact of Omicron, which is rapidly spreading and becoming an increasingly dominant form.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude rose 24 cents to $76.81 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 58 cents to $76.56 on Wednesday. International oil price base Brent crude rose 20 cents to $79.41 a barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher at $79.23 in the previous session.

The dollar rose to 115.04 yen from Wednesday’s 114.97 yen. The euro declined from $1.1344 to $1.1333.

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