Asian stocks fell on Tuesday as concerns about increasing Covid-19 infections and lockdowns around the world overshadowed investor optimism stemming from vaccine rollouts in Britain, Canada and the United Stated.
Investors looked ahead to policy announcements later this week by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan for directional cues.
China’s Shanghai Composite index ended little changed with a negative bias even as a slew of data showed that the economic recovery in China remains on track. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended down 182.23 points, or 0.7 percent, to 26,207.29.
Industrial production in China was up 7.0 percent year-on-year in November, the National Bureau of Statistics said, matching forecasts and up from 6.9 percent in October.
The bureau also said that retail sales rose an annual 5.0 percent – shy of expectations for an increase of 5.2 percent but still up from 4.3 percent in the previous month.
Fixed asset investment gained 2.6 percent on year, in line with expectations and up from 1.8 percent a month earlier.
Japanese shares finished lower after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the ‘Go To Travel’ domestic tourism campaign will be suspended nationwide from December 28 to January 11.
The announcement came amid record-breaking coronavirus cases emerging in Japan almost daily since late October.
The Nikkei 225 slipped 44.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 26,687.84, while the broader Topix closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,782.05.
Travel-related stocks succumbed to selling pressure, with Japan Airlines declining 3.4 percent and ANA Holdings tumbling 7.9 percent.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries surged 5.7 percent after announcing a tie-up with Australian miner Fortescue Metals Group to develop a supply chain of “green” hydrogen.
Australian markets ended lower, with miners declining after China’s steel producers pushed for a regulatory probe into skyrocketing prices.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 28.90 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,631.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 33.60 points, or 0.5 percent, at 6,866.70.
Top miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto shed 2.3 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, after iron ore futures fell more than 4 percent on Monday. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 3.1 percent.
Whitehaven Coal plunged 5.9 percent and New Hope Corp. gave up 2.7 percent after reports that China has formalized import restrictions targeting Australia’s $14 billion in coal exports.
Woodside Petroleum and Santos lost 2-3 percent as crude prices dipped due to concerns about fuel demand. The big four banks ended down between half a percent and 1 percent despite news that banks would no longer have to hold a portion of their profit back starting next year, raising prospects for higher dividends.
Gold miners also fell broadly, with Northern Star Resources slumping 3.8 percent after gold prices closed at a two-week low overnight.
In economic news, minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia’s December 1 meeting indicated that the central bank is prepared to do more if needed.
Seoul stocks fell for a second straight day as foreign investors extended their selling spree to a fourth straight session amid spiking virus cases.
South Korea’s daily Covid-19 cases remained high at nearly 900 Tuesday after hitting a daily record of 1,030 cases Sunday.
The benchmark Kospi dipped 5.38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,756.82, with the construction and bio sectors pacing the decliners.
New Zealand shares fluctuated before ending lower. The benchmark NZX-50 index slid 67.95 points, or 0.5 percent, to 12,767.17, with dual-listed banks and utilities pacing the decliners.
Investors ignored the results of a survey showing that consumer confidence has rebounded sharply in December amid increased spending on dining out and entertainment.
U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as Covid-19 vaccinations began in the United States but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both warned that a “full shutdown” is possible in the coming weeks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 slid 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose half a percent.
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