Asian stock markets sink as traders watch Europe virus cases

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Asian stock markets fell as traders weigh the impact of a surge in coronavirus cases in Europe and anti-disease controls that threaten to disrupt business and travel

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Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. US markets remained closed on Thursday due to the holiday.

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Austria imposed a nationwide 10-day lockdown after its daily virus deaths tripled, while Italy banned activity by unvaccinated people. The US government advised Americans to avoid Germany and Denmark. Scientists in South Africa said a new variant is spreading among young people in its most populous province.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” Oanda’s Jeffrey Haley said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5% to 3,566.18 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell by an unusually wide 2.6% margin to 28,746.20. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 2.1% to end at 24,213.55.

In Seoul, the Kospi fell 1.3% to 2,941.81 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 fell 1.7% to 7,282.50.

India’s Sensex fell 1.8% to open at 57,752.68. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also declined.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 closed up 0.2% on Wednesday. US markets are set to reopen for a shorter trading session on Friday.

Federal Reserve officials said in notes from their October meeting released this week that investors were already more cautious, anticipating the possibility of responding to high inflation by raising rates sooner than previously planned.

Financial markets were encouraged by strong US corporate earnings and signs that the global economy was rebounding from the decline in activity last year due to the pandemic. Stock prices have been boosted by easier credit and other measures introduced by the Fed and other central banks.

Investors worry that stronger-than-expected inflation could put pressure on central bankers to withdraw the stimulus ahead of the plan. The Fed previously said it predicted keeping rates low until the end of next year.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude fell $2.22 to $76.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international oil price base, fell by $1.84 to $79.08 a barrel in London.

The dollar fell to 114.74 yen from Thursday’s 115.36 yen. The euro held steady at $1.1221.

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