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Asian Shares End Mixed As Virus Worries Persist

asian mixed 28jul20 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Tuesday despite a flurry of positive news, ranging from hopes about additional fiscal stimulus in the U.S. to the launch of late-stage trials of experimental Covid-19 vaccines.

While a weak U.S. dollar sparked rebalancing in asset portfolios around the globe, gains were tempered by escalating U.S.-China tensions and the increase in Covid-19 infections from China to Spain and Germany.

Chinese shares advanced as investors cheered signs of economic recovery in the world's second-largest economy. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 22.73 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,227.96, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 169.50 points, or 0.7 percent, to 24,772.76.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares ended lower amid reports that Nissan Motor plans to conserve cash and is unlikely to pay a dividend for the current fiscal year. The Nikkei 225 Index slid 58.47 points, or 0.3 percent, to 22,657.38, while Nissan Motor shares slumped 4.3 percent. The broader Topix closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,569.12.

Toyota Motor declined 1.5 percent, Honda Motor gave up 1.7 percent, Mazda Motor gave up 2.6 percent and Suzuki Motor tumbled 3.2 percent. Mitsubishi Motors plunged 12.6 percent to a record low after posting dismal quarterly sales in its key Southeast Asia market.

On the positive side, Daiichi Sankyo shares surged 10.3 percent after AstraZeneca committed to pay $6 billion for a cancer drug the company is developing.

Australian markets gave up early gains to end lower. The coronavirus was a "tragedy" and the spike in cases will only produce more fatalities in the coming days, Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 23.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,020.50, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 22.80 points, or 0.4 percent, at 6,146.80.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto rose 1.7 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group jumped 3.2 percent.

Gold miners Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources fell about 1 percent on profit taking after the yellow metal hit a record high on safe-haven demand. AngloGold Ashanti surged 7.6 percent after forecasting higher first-half earnings.

Westpac lost 1.5 percent. The lender said it has provided information to Australia's financial crime watchdog, AUSTRAC, on more than 500,000 additional transactions in relation to a money laundering and child exploitation scandal. The other three big banks fell between 0.3 percent and 0.9 percent.

Online furniture trader Temple & Webster Group spiked 5.8 percent after it reported a more than five-fold surge in full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

Seoul stocks rallied on the back of massive foreign buying amid stimulus efforts in the United States and Europe. Investor sentiment was further boosted by a sharp drop in the number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea and reports that multiple Covid-19 vaccines have entered final stage clinical trials.

South Korea added 28 new cases today, up from 25 on Monday but sharply down from a four-month high of 113 on Saturday. The benchmark Kospi jumped 39.13 points, or 1.8 percent, to 2,256.99.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics soared 5.4 percent on expectations that the company will benefit from renewed tensions between the U.S. and China. Leading steelmaker POSCO added 3.1 percent.

New Zealand shares reversed early gains to end the day marginally lower, extending losses for the fifth consecutive session. The benchmark NZX-50 Index slipped 7.35 points to 11,578.27 after hitting as high as 11,687.13 earlier in the day.

U.S. stocks rose overnight after data showed U.S. orders for durable goods rose more than expected in June and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Republicans have finalized their new coronavirus relief legislation.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.4 percent and the S&P 500 gained 0.7 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index rallied 1.7 percent.

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