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Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trade

stockmarkets dec18 13nov20 lt

Asian stocks ended Friday's session on a mixed note as the resurgence of new coronavirus cases around the globe overshadowed investor optimism that vaccines in development could help to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Fed Chair's Jerome Powell's cautious comments on the outlook for economic recovery and media reports suggesting that U.S. Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on an economic stimulus deals also contributed to the cautious mood.

Chinese stocks fell after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at prohibiting U.S. investments in Chinese firms that are determined to be owned or controlled by the country's military.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 28.57 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,310.10, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished marginally lower at 26,156.86.

Japanese shares ended lower to snap an eight-day winning streak as the focus shifted to resurging new cases of Covid-19 both at home and abroad. Tokyo confirmed 374 new Covid-19 infections today, topping 300 for three consecutive days.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 135.01 points, or 0.5 percent, at 25,385.87, while the broader Topix closed 1.3 percent lower at 1,703.22.

The Nikkei rose more than 4 percent for the week on optimism over Biden's victory in the U.S. presidential race and Pfizer's promising vaccine trial data.

Travel-related stocks fell, with Japan Airlines down 1.9 percent and ANA Holdings losing as much as 4.8 percent. Railroad companies such as Central Japan Railway, Sotetsu Holdings and Kintetsu Group Holdings fell between 3.7 percent and 6.8 percent.

Australian markets ended slightly lower as new Covid-19 cases continued to rise globally, offsetting investor optimism surrounding vaccine hopes.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 13.00 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,405.20 but rose about 3 percent for the week. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 10.10 points, or 0.2 percent, at 6,609.30.

Energy stocks such as Origin Energy, Beach Energy and Santos dropped 1-2 percent as oil prices fell on fears about a slow recovery in the global economy and fuel demand.

The big four banks ended narrowly mixed, while mining heavyweight BHP gave up 1.9 percent. Gold miners Evolution Mining, Newcrest and Northern Star Resources jumped 3-7 percent as bullion prices rebounded after a slide in government bond yields.

Bulk grain handler Graincorp soared 9.1 percent after the company sounded upbeat about its prospects.

Meanwhile, Seoul stocks rose notably to hit a nearly two-year high as foreign investors extended their buying streak to a seventh consecutive session. The benchmark Kospi climbed 18.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,493.87, with chipmakers leading the surge.

Samsung Electronics climbed 3.6 percent, SK Hynix advanced 1.8 percent and Hyundai Motor, the country's largest carmaker, added 2 percent.

After the country reported its biggest daily jump in Covid-19 cases in 70 days, South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the viral spread could force the government to "seriously consider" tightening social distancing again.

New Zealand shares ended a choppy session modestly higher after a measure of the country's manufacturing dropped from 54.0 to 51.7 in October. The benchmark NZX-50 Index ended up 29.55 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,700.17.

U.S. stocks fell overnight as new curbs on activity in New York and rising Covid-19 hospitalizations stoked fresh worries over economic growth.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell's cautious comments during a virtual event also added to the downbeat sentiment. With the virus spreading, the next few months could be challenging despite recent upbeat news about a potential vaccine, Powell said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.1 percent, the S&P 500 gave up 1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite eased 0.7 percent.

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