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SenseTime The Big Winner Despite Flat Asian Trade

Asian stocks were mostly flat on Thursday with concern about the Omicron variant weighing on investors in cautious holiday trade after a mixed close on Wall Street

Tokyo was marginally down at the close on its last trading day of 2021, but the Nikkei index rose nearly 5% for the year to its highest annual close since 1989. Photo: Reuters.


Asian stocks were mostly flat on Thursday in cautious holiday trade following a mixed close on Wall Street, though Chinese artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime was a big winner with a 23% jump on its Hong Kong debut.

Fears of the Omicron coronavirus variant are still weighing on markets, with the United States hitting its highest-ever seven-day average of new Covid cases and the World Health Organization warning that a “tsunami” of infections would push health systems to the brink of collapse.

But investors have also clung to data showing a reduced risk of hospitalisation from Omicron, and the fact that trading volumes are extremely low in the period between Christmas and the New Year.

“Despite global surges in Covid cases, the markets are reflecting the new reality that Covid is here to stay albeit more on our terms than its,” Kevin Philip, managing director at Bel Air Investment Advisors, said in an email.

Next year, he added, “we are facing less of a Covid-influenced world, and a return toward normalcy.”

Tokyo was marginally down at the close on its last trading day of 2021, but the benchmark Nikkei index rose nearly 5% for the year to its highest annual close since the 1989 boom.


‘Lethargic’ trade

Hong Kong and Shanghai both closed slightly higher.

SenseTime was among stocks bucking the trend, with its price well up only a week after it was blacklisted by the United States over accusations of genocide in Xinjiang.

The sale boosted the wealth of company co-founder Tang Xiao’ou. The MIT alum’s wealth jumped by $500 million to roughly $3.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Also in Hong Kong, shares in embattled Chinese property giant Evergrande tumbled 9% after a report that the group had failed to meet two more offshore payments.

But markets were mostly sedate overall.

Seoul and Taiwan recorded small dips, while Wellington and Manila were slightly up.

“Ahead of year-end and New Year holidays, the number of market participants is low and trade will likely remain lethargic,” Mizuho Securities said.

“Asia is having a mixed day… and it appears that some pre-New-Years-Eve book squaring is weighing on some markets,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst with OANDA.

Things were similarly quiet at the open in Europe.

London fell 0.2%, Frankfurt’s was down 0.1%, while Paris was fractionally lower.


Key figures around 0820 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4% at 28,791.71 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.11% at 23,112.01 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.62% at 3,619.19 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.1% at 4,793.06 (close)


• AFP with additional editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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