Asian Shares Rise Despite Pandemic Concerns


Asian stocks advanced on Wednesday despite lingering concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and signs of slowing global growth.

Investors watched for the Federal Reserve’s release of the minutes of its July policy meeting later in the day for clues on the central bank’s tapering plans.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at a town hall meeting on Tuesday that it remains to be seen how the U.S. economy will weather the recent COVID-19 surge.

Chinese and Hong Kong shares rebounded after seeing steep losses in the previous session as China’s market regulator issued draft rules aimed at stopping unfair competition on the internet.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index jumped 38.31 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3,485.29 after plunging 2 percent the previous day. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended up 121.14 points, or 0.5 percent, at 25,867.01.

Japanese shares ended higher to snap a four-day losing streak, a day after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga officially expanded and extended the nation’s coronavirus state of emergency.

The Nikkei 225 Index rose 161.44 points, or 0.6 percent, to 27,585.91, while the broader Topix closed 0.4 percent higher at 1,923.97.

Fujifilm jumped 3.3 percent to extend gains after upwardly revising its net profit estimate for the business year through March. Investors chased defensive companies, with Astellas Pharma rallying 2.1 percent and Chugai Pharmaceutical ending up 1.1 percent.

In economic news, the total value of core machinery orders in Japan fell a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent sequentially in June, the Cabinet Office said in a report. That beat expectations for a decline of 2.8 percent following the 7.8 percent jump in May.

On a yearly basis, core machinery orders climbed 18.6 percent – again exceeding expectations for an increase of 15.8 percent following the 12.2 percent gain in the previous month.

Another report showed that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 441 billion yen in July – exceeding expectations for a surplus of 202.3 billion yen.

Australian markets ended a range-bound session slightly lower as the country’s most populous state reported a record 633 new coronavirus infections. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 8.90 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,502.10 while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 2.60 points at 7,770.70.

Mining giant BHP slumped 7.1 percent after it agreed to divest its $20 billion petroleum business to Woodside Petroleum in a retreat from fossil fuels. Shares of the latter declined 2.1 percent.

Banks finished broadly higher, with Westpac climbing 1.4 percent. Payment solutions firm EML Payments, a tailored payment solutions provider, advanced 2.3 percent after reporting a 60 percent spike in fiscal 2021 revenue.

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises jumped 7.1 percent. The company lifted its final dividend and increased the outlook for new store openings after posting a nearly 33 percent surge in annual profit.

Seoul stocks closed higher to snap an eight-session losing streak as weak U.S. data raised doubts over the timing of the Fed’s plan to begin tapering its asset buying program. The benchmark Kospi rose 15.84 points, or 0.5 percent, to settle at 3,158.93. SK Hynix climbed 2.5 percent, while Samsung Biologics and Kakao Bank lost 2-3 percent.

New Zealand shares advanced after the country’s central bank refrained from raising interest rates in light of the lockdown. The benchmark NZX 50 Index advanced 83.56 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,718.88. EBOS Group shares gained 1.9 percent after the healthcare products distributor reported another record profit for FY21.

U.S. stocks pulled back from record highs overnight as retail sales and homebuilder confidence figures disappointed and Home Depot reported weaker than expected same-store sales growth.

The Dow shed 0.8 percent and the S&P 500 gave up 0.7 percent to snap five-day winning streaks, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 0.9 percent.

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