Asian markets struggle as traders lick wounds after tough week
HONG KONG, China – Asian markets were mixed Friday as investors struggled to kickstart a rebound after a painful week for global equities that has been characterised by fears over surging infections and a stuttering vaccine rollout.
Traders have been licking their wounds after the worst global rout since October, with talk of a correction following a months-long rally that has seen several indexes strike record or multi-year highs.
But observers remain confident for the long-term prospects of prices as the planet emerges from lockdowns and more people get inoculations.
Wall Street and most of Europe provided a positive lead, helped by some much-needed positive news that fewer Americans than expected made claims for jobless benefits last week.
And data showing the US economy suffered its worst year since 1946, while growth tapered in the fourth quarter, also gave support to calls for lawmakers to pass Joe Biden’s huge stimulus proposals.
Hong Kong and Shanghai both rose, having suffered some of the biggest losses partly because the Chinese central bank sucked money out of mainland financial markets.
There were also gains in Sydney, Singapore, Taipei and Wellington, though they were off earlier highs.
Tokyo, Seoul, Manila and Jakarta were all in the red.
Several issues have combined to push markets down, including concerns that valuations had gone too far and the frightening spike in virus cases and new variants, as well as a stuttering vaccination campaign around the world.
Markets have also been rattled by a David-and-Goliath battle between a growing number of chatroom-inspired retail traders and Wall Street investors centred on struggling video game retailer GameStop, which has seen a number of professional dealers lose billions of dollars.
“The mood has become quite gloomy on vaccinations, which may not be surprising given we are in the pandemic’s darkest time so far,” said Axi strategist Stephen Innes. “But I think it’s important not to lose sight of what matters from a medical perspective: the vaccines work.”
He added: “The big picture does not change in terms of markets’ outlook. Namely, an unprecedented amount of monetary and fiscal stimulus, a structural shift towards much more spending, a potentially unmatched economic rebound — whether starting in the second or third quarter — and a reasonable chance of inflation for the first time in several decades.”
And National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland was also upbeat on the long term, writing in a note: “While there remains delays in the vaccine rollout (the EU is threatening to tighten rules on the export of vaccines), the efficacy of the vaccine remains and still allows risk markets to price the other side of the pandemic.”
Key figures around 0300 GMT
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 28,145.63 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 28,635.75
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,506.75
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2105 from $1.2119 at 2140 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 104.53 yen from 104.26 yen
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3713 from $1.3725
Euro/pound: DOWN at 88.26 pence from 88.30 pence
West Texas Intermediate: FLAT at $52.35 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.4 percent at $55.74 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 1.0 percent at 30,603.36 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 6,526.15 (close)
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