Asian markets mixed as Wall Street hits new high, but so do COVID-19 cases

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BEIJING – Asian stock markets were mixed on Thursday after Wall Street hit a high and a record rise in new daily US coronavirus cases.

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Nikkei 225 NIK,
-0.33%
0.3% shed in Tokyo. Hang Seng Hsi,
+0.21%
Hong Kong gained 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP),
+0.82%
rose 0.8%.

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Kospi 180721,
-0.47%
Seoul lost 0.4% and Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO declined.
-0.10%
0.1% was off. Shares up in Malaysia FBMKLCI,
-0.23%
But the Singapore STI declined,
-0.32%,
While Taiwan Y9999,
-0.07%
and Indonesia JAKIDX,
-0.13%
Few were changed.

Wall Street edged up on Wednesday for its 70th record high of 2021. But optimism was dampened by data showing new US virus cases have risen to an average of 265,000 per day, largely driven by the more infectious Omicron variant.

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Mizuho Bank’s Tan Boon Heung said in a report, markets “hang on thin optimism” while health care resources do “balancing work”.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 Index SPX,
+0.14%
rose 0.1% to 4,793.06. Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,
+0.25%
rose 0.2% to 36,488.63. Nasdaq Composite Comp,
-0.10%
It slipped 0.1% to 15,766.22.

The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of 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.

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.

Benchmark US crude CLG22 in energy markets,
+0.34%
It rose 38 cents to $76.95 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 58 cents to $76.56 on Wednesday. Brent Crude BRNG22,
+0.25%,
The international oil price base rose 38 cents to $79.59 a barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher at $79.23 in the previous session.

Dollar USDJPY,
+0.07%
It rose to 115.02 yen from Wednesday’s 114.97 yen.

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