Asian Shares Advance On U.S. Stimulus Boost

stockmarkets dec12 23dec20 lt

Asian stocks advanced on Wednesday as worries over a new Covid-19 strain eased and U.S. lawmakers approved a $900 billion relief package for the world's biggest economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he wants an increase in the stimulus checks for individuals to $2,000 from $600, or he may veto the legislation.

Chinese shares rose after a coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) was found to be safe and triggered immune responses in early and mid-stage trials.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended up 25.54 points, or 0.8 percent, at 3,382.32. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 223.85 points, or 0.9 percent, to 26,343.10.

Japanese shares eked out modest gains even as the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 748 new cases of the coronavirus, up 185 from Tuesday.

The Nikkei 225 Index inched up 88.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 26,524.79, after hitting a three-week low on Tuesday. The broader Topix closed 0.2 percent higher at 1,765.21.

Tech shares gained ground on reports that Apple is foraying into making its own self-driving, electric cars. Advantest jumped 2.5 percent and Tokyo Electron added 1.4 percent.

Healthcare stocks also rose as Covid-19 worries mount. Daiichi Sankyo climbed 2.9 percent. Automakers took a hit after reports that the government would set a goal of banning new sales of gasoline-powered cars by the mid-2030s. Honda Motor lost 2.3 percent and Nissan Motor gave up 3.1 percent.

In economic news, minutes of the Bank of Japan's October rate review showed that several board members saw room to debate tweaks to the central bank's massive stimulus program.

Australian markets rose notably to snap a three-day losing streak. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index ended up 43.50 points, or 0.7 percent, at 6,643.10, after having fallen over 2 percent over the past three sessions on concerns about a new faster-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

The broader All Ordinaries Index gained 47.10 points, or 0.7 percent, to finish at 6,892.60 as New South Wales, the site of a new virus outbreak in Australia, relaxed virus curbs ahead of Christmas.

Tech stocks outperformed, with Afterpay and Wisetech Global climbing 1.5 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Healthcare stocks also advanced, with regenerative medicine company Orthocell climbing 7.3 percent after it received approval for its nerve repair device CelGro to be used in the Australian dental market. Mesoblast soared 9.2 percent.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB rose between 0.2 percent and 0.9 percent, while miners ended broadly lower after a fall in iron ore prices.

Origin Energy, Santos and Woodside Petroleum gained 1-2 percent despite crude oil prices falling sharply overnight.

Private sector credit in Australia was up 0.1 percent month-on-month in November, the Reserve Bank of Australia said today after a flat reading in October. On a yearly basis, credit climbed 1.7 percent after gaining 1.8 percent in the previous month.

Seoul stocks rebounded after the previous session's plunge amid strong advances by tech giants. The benchmark Kospi surged up 26.14 points, or 1 percent, to 2,759.82 as foreign investors turned net buyers after a four-session selling streak.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics jumped 2.2 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix advanced 3.1 percent. LG Electronics soared 29.6 percent after the firm unveiled plans to spin off some its electric-car components business into a new joint venture with Canadian auto parts company Magna International Inc.

New Zealand shares rose sharply, with the benchmark NX-50 index ending up 177.52 points, or 1.4 percent, at 13,020.21. Meridian Energy shares soared 7.5 percent and a2 Milk rallied 3.5 percent.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as concerns around a fast-spreading new coronavirus strain offset a U.S. stimulus boost.

On the economic front, revised GDP data as well as housing and consumer confidence figures painted a mixed picture of the economy.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose half a percent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.7 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent.

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