Asian Shares Mostly Lower As China COVID Cases Surge

asianmarket 021219 21nov22 lt

Asian stocks fell broadly on Monday, as China battled a record number of COVID-19 cases and Russian officials in control of Europe's largest nuclear site accused Kyiv of shelling the area.

China has reported the death of three people after contracting COVID-19. It is the first COVID-related death that China's mainland has reported since May.

As Russia and Ukraine trade blame over the weekend's shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has warned that whoever fired artillery at the plant was "playing with fire."

China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.4 percent to 3,085.04 after several cities in the country, including Beijing and Shanghai, imposed stringent restrictions to contain new COVID-19 outbreaks.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.9 percent to 17,655.91, extending losses for a fourth straight session.

Japanese shares fluctuated before ending slightly higher after Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway raised its stake in the country's five biggest trading houses. The Nikkei 225 Index edged up 0.2 percent to 27,944.79, while the broader Topix ended up 0.3 percent at 1,972.57.

Trading house Marubeni closed 2.1 percent higher after touching a record high of 1,514 yen earlier in the day. Insurer Sompo Holdings plunged 8 percent after it swung to a loss in the six months ended September 30.

Seoul stocks tumbled, with the Kospi falling 1.0 percent to 2,419.50 amid pandemic, geopolitical and interest-rate uncertainties.

Australian markets ended lower, dragged down by losses in the mining and energy sectors. Santos, Woodside Energy, BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group lost 1-4 percent. The big four banks rose between 0.6 percent and 1.5 percent on expectations that they will benefit from higher interest rates.

Online property settlement firm PEXA Group fell over 3 percent after its top shareholder Link Administration exited its holding.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index reversed early gains to finish 0.2 percent lower at 7,139.30, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended 0.3 percent lower at 7,335.10.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 percent to 11,440.40 ahead of the RBNZ interest rate decision on Wednesday, with some analysts expecting a larger 75 basis point move.

U.S. stocks struggled for direction before finishing higher on Friday but posted weekly losses, as weak data on home sales and leading economic indicators failed to ease investor worries about the Federal Reserve's path of monetary tightening.

The Dow gained 0.6 percent and the S&P 500 rose half a percent, snapping two days of losses amid a positive reaction to upbeat earnings news. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ended largely unchanged.

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