Asian Shares Mixed Amid U.S. Stimulus Uncertainty

Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday as optimism about coronavirus vaccine rollouts eclipsed concerns over a delay in U.S. stimulus and Brexit uncertainty.

Near-term U.S. fiscal stimulus appeared unlikely after Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that negotiations could stretch on after Christmas if necessary.

On the Brexit front, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “a strong possibility” Britain and the European Union would fail to strike a trade deal.

Chinese shares ended notably lower on worries about policy tightening and concerns surrounding persistent Sino-U.S. tensions as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission began the process of revoking China Telecom’s authorization to operate in the United States.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slid 26.08 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,347.19, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 95.28 points, or 0.4 percent, to 26,505.87.

Japanese shares ended a tad lower as the yen edged up amid uncertainties over Brexit, U.S. stimulus and worries over surging Covid-19 cases. Tokyo reported 595 new cases of Covid-19 today, while the number of serious cases increased by eight from the previous day to 67.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the coronavirus situation in the country is tense, but he was not thinking of suspending the government travel subsidy program.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 103.72 points, or 0.4 percent, to 26,652.52 and posted its first weekly loss in six. The broader Topix closed 0.3 percent higher at 1.782.01.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group slumped 4.7 percent on profit taking after two days of strong gains on share buyback reports and the successful initial public offering of DoorDash.

Toyota Motor jumped 4.6 percent after the company unveiled a sleeker and longer-traveling version of Mirai, its hydrogen-powered car.

Australian markets fell, dragged down by gold miners and financials. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 40.50 points, or 0.6 percent, to 6,642.60,but posted a sixth weekly gain, supported by strong commodity prices on the back of vaccine optimism. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 30.70 points, or 0.4 percent, at 6,886.40.

Banks ANZ, Commonwealth and NAB fell around 1 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Santos climbed around 3 percent after oil prices hit their highest level since March. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto rose 0.8 percent and half a percent, respectively.

Biotechnology giant CSL tumbled 3.2 percent after shelving the University of Queensland vaccine project. Buy-now-pay-later firm Zip Co. advanced 1.9 percent after it announced a deal with social media giant Facebook.

IGO surged 25.3 percent after completing the institutional component of its entitlement offer and share placement.

Seoul stocks rebounded to post their longest streak of weekly gains since November 2019 after a government report showed the country’s exports during the first 10 days of December jumped 26.9 percent year-on-year, boosted by microchips amid improving global demand.

The benchmark Kospi climbed 23.60 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,770.06. The index rose 1.4 percent for the week, marking its sixth straight weekly jump.

New Zealand shares fluctuated before finishing modestly higher. The benchmark NZX-50 Index rose 58.88 points, or 0.5 percent, to 12,919.25.

New Zealand food prices declined 0.9 percent month-on-month in November as Covid-19 restrictions reduced exports, Stats NZ said in a report. That was bigger than the 0.7 percent drop posted in October.

U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight as jobless claims figures exceeded estimates and lawmakers remained at odds over a new fiscal relief package.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 edged down 0.1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose half a percent.

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