Asian stock markets mixed on pandemic concerns

by Jonathan Adams
ASX

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 24.10 points or 0.34 percent to 7,071.70, the Nikkei 225 adding nearly 600 points, New Zealand and Malaysia are shedding 0.9 percent, while Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea are gaining between 0.3 and 0.6 percent each

Asian stock markets are mixed on Thursday, following thin trading in the previous three sessions due to holiday’s in couple of major markets, amid concerns over the continuing surge in daily coronavirus cases in most markets in the region and the related restrictions or lockdown in several areas restricting economic activity. Asian markets closed mixed in thin trading on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen eased market concerns of a rate hike after she clarified that she was neither predicting nor recommending a rate increase. Yellen had suggested that interest rates may have to rise modestly to prevent the economy from overheating amid the recent spike in government spending.

In Australia, the stock market is modestly lower after giving up early gains on Thursday and after the previous three sessions of gains, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 7,100 level off its fresh 14-month highs reached yesterday, as strength in materials and energy stocks were offset by weakness across the technology and financial sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 24.10 points or 0.34 percent to 7,071.70, after reaching a high of 7,112.50 and a low of 7,048.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 25.50 points or 0.33 percent to 7,318.70. Australian markets ended modestly higher on Wednesday.

The Japanese stock market is sharply higher on Thursday, coming back after three days of holiday’s, with the Nikkei 225 adding nearly 600 points to break above the 29,000 mark, on positive comments on the state of the economy by members of the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy board. However, concerns about the continuing surge in coronavirus cases are limiting the markets’ upside.

Members of the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy board said that the country’s economy is showing signs of inconsistent improvement but continues to be threatened by COVID-19, minutes from the bank’s meeting on March 18 and 19 revealed on Thursday. At the meeting, the bank widened the range at which it permits the yields of government bonds to fluctuate and scrapped the average exchange traded fund buying target and also maintained its benchmark lending rate at -0.1 percent.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index ended the morning session at 29,391.19, up 578.56 points or 2.01 percent, after hitting a high of 29,430.22 earlier. Japanese shares closed significantly lower on Friday, the last trading before holidays.

Elsewhere in Asia, New Zealand and Malaysia are shedding 0.9 percent, while Shanghai and Indonesia are down between 0.1 and 0.3 percent each. Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea are gaining between 0.3 and 0.6 percent each. Hong Kong is trading flat.

On Wall Street, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Wednesday before eventually closing the session mixed. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow finished the session at a new record closing high.

The major averages ended the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq dropped 51.08 points or 0.4 percent to 13,582.43, the Dow added 97.31 points or 0.3 percent to 34,230.34 and the S&P 500 edged up 2.93 points or 0.1 percent to 4,167.59.



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