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Asian Shares Mixed On Omicron, Rate Hike Worries

asianmarket 021219 10jan22 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Monday as the Omicron Covid-19 variant continued to spread rapidly around the world and traders pondered the possibility of the U.S. Federal Reserve's faster than expected tapering and rate hikes.

Traders also waited for U.S. inflation data as well as Fed Chair Jerome Powell's hearing in the Senate this week for additional clues about the U.S. central bank's stance about rate hikes. Investors are worried that Powell might make hawkish comments about inflation in the hearing.

Japanese markets were closed for a holiday. Chinese shares eked out modest gains after the country's Securities Regulatory Commission said it would adopt various measures to avoid volatility and "firmly" prevent big fluctuations.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 13.98 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,593.52, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 253.16 points, or 1.1 percent, at 23,746.54.

Australian markets finished marginally lower as total Covid-19 cases in the country surpassed 1 million, with more than half of them recorded in the past week.

Tech stocks declined amid worries of earlier than expected policy tightening by the Federal Reserve and ahead of U.S. inflation data due this week. Afterpay, Xero and Wisetech Global lost 2-3 percent.

Energy stocks extended gains for the second straight session, with Woodside Petroleum climbing 2.3 percent as oil prices continued to rise amid political instability in Kazakhstan.

Seoul stocks tumbled on U.S. rate hike concerns. The benchmark Kospi slumped 28.17 points, or 1 percent, to close at 2,926.72 amid selling by both institutions and foreign investors.

Chipmaker SK Hynix shed 2 percent, internet firm Kakao tumbled 3.4 percent and leading carmaker Hyundai Motor gave up 2.6 percent.

New Zealand shares fell for the third straight session, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index ending down 77.71 points, or 0.6 percent, at 12,892.94. Media firm SKY Network Television plunged 3.5 percent to a nearly four-week low.

U.S. stocks ended mostly lower on Friday as the December jobs report pushed the 10-year Treasury yield to a pandemic-era high. Despite weaker than expected job growth, the unemployment rate slid to 3.9 percent in December from 4.2 percent in November.

The Dow ended on a flat note, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq Composite fell 1 percent to extend losses for the fourth consecutive session.

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