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Asian shares mixed as US-China tensions rise

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Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday amid rising US-China tensions and ahead of the results of two key Senate runoffs in Georgia that will determine how much US president-elect Joe Biden can push through Democrats’ agenda.

The Trump administration has signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese apps, saying they are a threat to US national security.

Adding to market uncertainty was the New York Stock Exchange’s back-and-forth deliberations over whether to delist Chinese stocks on security grounds. China’s Shanghai Composite index rose 0.63 per cent to 3,550.88.

The services sector in China continued to expand in December, albeit at a slower pace, the latest survey from Caixin showed with a services PMI score of 56.3, down from 57.8 in November. The composite index fell to 55.8 from 57.5 in November.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended 0.15 per cent higher at 27, 692.30 even as a survey showed the private sector in Hong Kong fell deep into contraction territory in December, with a PMI score of 43.5.

Japanese shares fell for a third straight session as investors fretted about the economic impact from the month-long state of emergency planned by the Japanese government to fight a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Nikkei average ended down 102.69 points, or 0.38 percent, at 27,055.94, while the broader Topix index closed 0.28 per cent higher at 1,796.18. Tech shares fell, with Advantest losing 2.4 per cent and Tokyo Electron falling 1.6 per cent. Heavyweight Fast Retailing lost 2.5 per cent, while SoftBank Group rose 1.3 per cent.

On the economic front, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed that the services sector in Japan contracted at a faster rate in December, with a PMI score of 47.7, down slightly from 47.8 in November.

Australian markets fell sharply amid fears that tougher lockdown restrictions will hurt growth. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 lost 74.80 points, or 1.12 per cent, to finish at 6,607.10 as the country’s largest city Sydney continued to battle a number of virus clusters. The broader All Ordinaries index ended down 74.30 points, or 1.07 per cent, at 6,881.40.

Healthcare stocks fell broadly, with heavyweight CSL falling 2.5 per cent. Banks ANZ, Westpac and NAB fell between 0.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent. Insurance Australia Group climbed 1.1 per cent after it announced a finalized catastrophe reinsurance program for 2021.

Energy stocks bucked the weak trend after oil prices jumped around 5 per cent overnight on news of proposed output cuts by major producer Saudi Arabia. Woodside Petroleum, Origin Energy and Santos rose about 2 per cent, while Oil Search soared 5.7 per cent.

In economic news, the latest survey from Markit Economics revealed that the services sector in Australia expanded at a faster pace in December, with a five-month high PMI score of 57.0. Seoul stocks ended lower to snap a seven-day winning streak.

The benchmark Kospi slipped 22.36 points, or 0.75 percent, to 2,968.21 after closing at record highs for six sessions in a row. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics dropped 2 per cent and Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, tumbled 3.1 per cent.

New Zealand shares fluctuated before ending modestly lower. The benchmark NZX-50 index dropped 33.72 points, or 0.25 per cent, to 13,333.93.

US stocks rose overnight as energy stocks benefited from higher oil prices and a gauge of US manufacturing activity rose to the highest level in nearly 2-1/2 years in December.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6 per cent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 1 per cent and the S&P 500 added 0.7 per cent.

Source: GNA

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