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Jobs data, Fed fears and Covid spikes continue to distract Asia’s markets

Traders around the Pacific couldn’t keep pace with their Wall St colleagues where post-pandemic positivity pushed the numbers to record highs again

Asian stock markets drop
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei and Manila all dropped back on Tuesday. Reuters image.

Traders around the Pacific couldn’t keep pace with their Wall St colleagues where post-pandemic positivity pushed the numbers to record highs again


Asian markets endured a mixed day on Friday as investors struggled to hold on to early momentum, with recovery optimism and vaccine hopes playing against worries over a spike in new virus infections.

Traders are now looking forward to much-anticipated US jobs data later in the day, which will provide a fresh snapshot of the world’s biggest economy and possibly give the Federal Reserve a reason to begin tapering its ultra-loose monetary policy.

The rapid spread of the Delta virus variant has become a cause for concern for several governments and has forced some, including Australia and South Africa, to reimpose lockdown measures.


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However, other countries such as Britain, the United States and parts of Europe are pressing ahead and reopening despite a surge in new cases, with vaccines appearing to be keeping deaths and hospitalisations down.

And confidence in the jabs and a string of healthy economic readings out of various countries helped push equity markets higher, and on Thursday, the S&P 500 hit a record for the sixth day in a row. 

The latest figures showed US jobless applications fell again last week to a pandemic-era low, while manufacturing activity continued to improve.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund added to the positive mood, forecasting the US economy to expand 7% this year, its highest since 1984, while it also upped its outlook for next year.



But after Wall Street’s rally, Asia enjoyed broad gains in the morning but tailed off in the afternoon.

Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore, Wellington, Manila, Mumbai and Jakarta were all up, while Seoul and Taipei were marginally lower.

The Nikkei 225 index rose 0.27%, or 76.24 points, to 28,783.28, snapping a four-day losing streak. The broader Topix index gained 0.88%, or 17.10 points, to 1,956.31.

Hong Kong and Shanghai tanked, however, following a recent run-up in the days leading into Thursday’s Chinese Communist Party centenary celebrations, when authorities looked to provide support to markets.

The Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.80%, or 517.53 points, to 28,310.42. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.95%, or 70.02 points, to 3,518.76, while the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange sank 1.86%, or 45.48 points, to 2,396.78.



On the oil markets, both contracts dipped slightly following Thursday’s rally that was fuelled by OPEC and other major producers delaying until Friday a decision on whether to boost output to meet surging demand. WTI and Brent are at levels not seen since 2018.

A panel had earlier recommended they pump an extra 400,000 barrels a day, less than forecast, despite fears that supplies are tightening quickly.

“If OPEC cannot agree a deal, it could mean there is no agreement to gradually raise output, leaving production at current levels and forcing prices higher in what’s already seen as a very tight market,” said Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.



Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.3% at 28,783.28 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.8% at 28,310.42 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 2.0% at 3,518.76 (close)

New York – Dow: UP 0.4% at 34,633.53 (close)


  • Reporting by AFP


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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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