Asian Markets Advance But Omicron Uncertainty Weighs


Most Asian markets continued to advance on Wednesday, extending a global rally, though investors are still struggling to assess the likely impact of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

The year-and-a-half-long rally across markets has petered out in recent weeks over fears about the new Covid variant and government measures to contain it, which come just as central banks begin to remove the vast financial support put in place at the start of the pandemic.

After being skittled on Monday, Asian markets bounced back on Tuesday thanks to a healthy dose of bargain-buying, and the positive energy filtered through to Wall Street and Europe.

The buying was also helped by expectations that the US Food and Drug Administration will authorise pills from Pfizer and Merck & Co to treat Covid-19 as soon as this week, providing fresh tools to battle the disease.


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However, analysts warned that with trade thinning heading into the festive break, volatility would stay high until the new year, and Asia saw its equities fluctuate through the morning.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Wellington, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta rose, but Shanghai, Singapore and Manila slipped.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 0.16% or 44.62 points at 28,562.21, while the broader Topix index ended up 0.09% or 1.72 points at 1,971.51.

The Hang Seng Index rose 0.57%, or 131.00 points, to 23,102.33. The Shanghai Composite Index dipped 0.07%, or 2.51 points, to 3,622.62, while the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange added 0.64%, or 15.97 points, to 2,520.30.

London opened slightly lower and Paris and Frankfurt edged up.


Festive Boost For Oil

Oil inched up to extend Tuesday’s strong gains as the festive mood lifts hope for an improvement in demand, while a closely watched report suggested US stockpiles fell again last week.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in Washington after Joe Biden said he was optimistic he could win the key vote of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who threw the president’s economic agenda into doubt after he said on Sunday he would reject the present proposal.

Omicron, though, remains the main focus of concern for investors as some countries reimpose tough measures – the Netherlands is in a Christmas lockdown – raising questions about the recovery, while inflation continues to harry trading floors.

But observers remain generally upbeat that economies will still return to a semblance of normal as vaccines kick in.

Meanwhile, signs that Omicron could be less severe than first feared are also providing some lift. The variant “is and will continue to have an impact on the global economy,” National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril said.

“But now there is the prospect that its impact could be shorter and shallower, favouring a positive outlook for 2022 with consumers and corporates well placed to support the economy next year, amid high levels of savings and employment.”


Key figures around 0820 GMT

Tokyo > Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 28,562.21 (close)

Hong Kong > Hang Seng Index: UP 0.6% at 23,102.33 (close)

Shanghai > Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 3,622.62 (close)

London > FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1% at 7,290.96

New York > Dow: UP 1.6% at 35,492.70 (close)


  • AFP with additional editing by Sean O’Meara



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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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