Asian shares mixed in scant New Year Eve trading

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Shares in Asia are mixed after major indexes were drawn into the red following a late slide on Wall Street, leaving the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average slightly below the record highs they set a day earlier .

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BANGKOK – Shares in Asia were mixed on Friday after major indices were drawn in the red following a late slide on Wall Street, driving the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slightly below record highs.

Tokyo and many other regional markets remained closed.

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A survey released on Friday showed that sugar factory activity rose higher in December as supply disruptions eased and export demand weakened.

The monthly Purchasing Managers Index, released by the National Statistics Agency and an industry group, rose to 50.3 on a 100-point scale from November’s 50.1, with numbers above 50 indicating an uptick in activity.

Hong Kong jumped 1.2% to 23,397.67 and the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5% to 3,638.24 in New Year’s Eve trading. Sydney dropped 0.9% to 7,444.60 as the number of new coronavirus cases rose in parts of Australia.

India’s Sensex rose 0.7%, while Singapore and Malaysia declined.

2021 has been a mixed year for Asian markets. Some benchmarks, such as the Hang Seng in Hong Kong, which has been plagued by troubles in China’s asset sector and US-Chinese friction, have eased. Others, such as Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 and the Shanghai Composite Index, have risen but have remained relatively stable.

Meanwhile, India’s Sensex broke new record highs in the spring despite the severe COVID-19 wave.

The benchmark S&P 500 was down 0.3% and the Dow and Nasdaq were down 0.2% on Thursday. Trading was relatively calm as many investors closed their positions for the year.

With the start of the new year, investors will not make any major moves until next week, although year-end window dressing in China has pushed prices higher.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 index slipped 0.3% to 4,778.73, a day after hitting a record high. The Dow, which set a new high on Wednesday, fell 0.2% to 36,398.08. The Nasdaq also closed 0.2% lower at 15,741.56.

The Russell 2000 Index of shares of the smaller company slipped less than 0.1% to 2,248.79.

Major US stock indexes are capping off a banner year for the market with solid gains at the end of December. The S&P 500 is headed for a gain of more than 27% for 2021, its best performance since 2019, another exceptional year.

A wave of consumer demand from the reopening of economies pushed corporate profits higher than expected this year, helping put investors in a buying mood.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks also helped keep interest rates low, making lending money more affordable for companies and consumers.

Several economic challenges remain, including rising inflation, disruptions to global supply chains and outbreaks of more contagious forms of the COVID-19 virus.

Investor concern about the Omicron variant, which is spreading rapidly and becoming the dominant coronavirus variant, in recent weeks has led researchers to say that it produces less severe symptoms.

Technology companies had the bulk of Wall Street’s late afternoon slide. Micron Technology led the decline in the sector, falling 2.4% after revealing that its memory chip output has been disrupted by a lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi’an aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak.

Investors have got some good news. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below 200,000, further evidence that the job market remains strong after last year’s coronavirus recession. Wall Street will get its December jobs report next week.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, a gauge of manufacturing and economic activity, came in at 63.1 for December. According to FactSet, this is slightly better than the 62.0 economists were expecting.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.51% from 1.54% a day earlier.

In other trade, US benchmark crude oil fell 42 cents to $76.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 43 cents to $76.99 a barrel on Thursday.

Brent crude, the base for international oil pricing, fell 38 cents to $79.15 a barrel.

The US dollar rose from 115.08 yen to 115.09 Japanese yen. The euro rose from $1.1326 to $1.1327.

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