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Asian Shares Mixed Amid Risk Aversion

stockmarkets jan18 12jan21 lt

Asian stocks turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday as U.S. Democrats moved quickly to impeach Donald Trump for an historic second time and investors watched for details of President-elect Joe Biden's proposed economic stimulus plan.

Concerns over a highly infectious Covid-19 strain and fears of fresh global lockdowns also kept underlying sentiment cautious.

Chinese stocks rebounded from their worst session in three weeks after the country reported a drop in the number of new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index surged 76.84 points, or 2.18 percent, to 3,608.34. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended 1.32 percent higher at 28,276.75.

Japanese shares ended on a flat note as trading resumed after a long holiday weekend. Caution prevailed after a new coronavirus variant was detected in four people who arrived in Japan from Brazil. Also, there were reports that the government plans to expand a state of emergency to the western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.

The Nikkei average finished marginally higher at 28,164.34, recovering from early declines. The broader Topix index closed 0.16 percent higher at 1,857.94.

Chugai Pharmaceutical soared 5.9 percent after tocilizumab, an arthritis drug developed by the company and Osaka University, was found by the British government to be effective in treating patients with Covid-19.

Takeda Pharmaceutical rallied 3.3 percent, Eisai gained 3.4 percent and Shionogi & Co added 2 percent.

In economic news, a government reports showed that Japan posted a current account surplus of 1,878.4 billion yen in November. That exceeded expectations for a surplus of 1,551 billion yen and was down from 2,144.7 billion yen in October.

Seoul stocks fell for the second day running as institutional and foreign investors cashed in on recent gains amid signs the stock market is overheating. The benchmark Kospi ended down 22.50 points, or 0.71 percent, at 3,125.95.

Chipmaker SK Hynix lost 3 percent and leading chemical firm LG Chem gave up 3.6 percent. Top automaker Hyundai Motor declined 2.4 percent after gaining in the past three straight sessions on reports that it may join forces with Apple to develop autonomous electric cars.

Australian markets ended slightly lower as miners and tech stocks fell, offsetting gains among financials.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slid 18.10 points, or 0.27 percent, to 6,679.10 as the country recorded a handful of new locally acquired coronavirus cases and frictions increased between state leaders over uncoordinated decisions.

The broader All Ordinaries index ended down 20.40 points, or 0.29 percent, at 6,939.10.

Miners extended losses for the third straight session, with BHP and Rio Tinto falling around 1 percent. Tech stocks such as Afterpay and Xero fell around 2 percent. On the positive side, the big four banks rose between 0.8 percent and 1.1 percent.

New Zealand shares retreated, with the benchmark NZX-50 ending down 106.40 points, or 0.80 percent, at 13,183.69 after the government said arrivals from virtually all countries soon need a negative Covid test result before boarding flights.

U.S. stocks ended on a weak note overnight as House Democrats prepared to impeach President Donald Trump, raising worries that stimulus may be delayed. Investors also waited for the earnings season to begin.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 0.3 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.7 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.3 percent.

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