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Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trading

stockmarkets jan07 04dec20 lt

Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Friday as uncertainty over Brexit and concerns over rising Covid-19 cases across the U.S. offset hopes that governments in countries such as Japan, the U.S. and Europe will deliver large-scale stimulus measures.

California announced its strictest new measures as the U.S. posted another day of record Covid-19 infections and deaths. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced new restrictive measures in the country for the upcoming holiday season.

Chinese shares ended on a flat note after the Trump administration added Chinese chipmaker SMIC and oil giant CNOOC to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies, escalating tensions between the world's two largest economies.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index finished marginally higher at 3,444.58, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up 0.4 percent to 26,835.92.

Japanese shares fell from a nearly 29-1/2-year high and the yen rose against the dollar after reports suggested that Pfizer is dialing back its coronavirus vaccine rollout plan for this year due to supply chain issues.

The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 58.13 points, or 0.2 percent, at 26,751.24, but posted its fifth consecutive weekly gain. The broader Topix ended marginally higher at 1,775.94.

Tokyo Electron tumbled 3.1 percent on profit taking after recent strong gains. Honda Motor advanced 1.5 percent and Nissan Motor surged 2.6 percent on reports that Japan plans to ban sales of new gasoline cars in around 15 years as part of plans to slash carbon emissions to zero on a net basis by 2050.

Australian markets eked out modest gains, led by banks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 18.80 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,634.10 and posted its fifth consecutive weekly gain. The broader All Ordinaries Index edged up 18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,865.30.

The big four banks rose between 0.4 percent and 1.3 percent, while conglomerate Macquarie Group jumped 2.3 percent to extend gains from the previous session.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gained 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group edged down slightly after recent strong gains.

Healthcare stocks finished broadly lower, with Cochlear falling 1.5 percent and Resmed declining 0.9 percent.

In economic news, retail sales in Australia grew a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent month-on-month in October, a government report showed.

That was shy of expectations for an increase of 1.6 percent following the 1.1 percent decline in September. On a yearly basis, retail sales were up 7.1 percent.

Seoul stocks hit record highs as chipmakers surged amid buying by foreign investors despite health authorities reporting 629 new coronavirus infections today, the highest in the country since the first wave peaked in February and early March.

The benchmark Kospi jumped 35.23 points, or 1.3 percent, to finish at 2,731.45, extending gains to a fourth straight day. Samsung Electronics rallied 2.6 percent and SK Hynix added 3.1 percent as rival Micron Technology's facility in Taiwan faced power outage.

South Korea posted a current account surplus of $11.66 billion in October, the Bank of Korea said, up from $10.21 billion in September.

New Zealand shares edged lower, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index ending down 17.53 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,631.38.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight after Pfizer reportedly cut the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses it plans to distribute this year because of supply chain problems.

Meanwhile, data on weekly jobless claims and service sector activity offered a mixed picture of the economy ahead of the all-important monthly jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.2 percent to a new record closing high, while the S&P 500 finished marginally lower.

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