Asia shares mixed on fading US stimulus hopes, virus concerns

Reuters NEW YORK | Updated on October 15, 2020 Published on October 15, 2020

Asian markets were off to a mixed start on Thursday as hopes of US fiscal stimulus before the presidential election faded and a record number of new coronavirus infections in parts of Europe propelled investors toward safe-havens such as gold.

Downbeat comments from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that a stimulus deal was unlikely be made before the November 3 vote weighed on fragile investor sentiment.

With Covid-19 cases surging, some European nations are closing schools as authorities braced for a repeat of the nightmare scenario seen earlier this year.

In a mixed Asian open, Australian equities bucked Wall Street declines, opening slightly higher because of “good support” for material and mining stocks, said Michael McCarthy, CMC Markets chief market strategist.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.1per cent .

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6per cent , while Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3per cent . Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures were down 0.49 per cent. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were flat.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.58 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.66 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.8 per cent.

Bank of America fell 5.3 per cent and Wells Fargo, both US banks, tumbled 6 per cent after a disappointing quarterly results.

Gold gained 1per cent on Wednesday, rebounding from a sharp decline in the previous session, boosted by a weaker US dollar and economic uncertainties.

Spot gold added 0.5 per cent to $1,900.89 an ounce.

The Australian dollar slid to a one-week low of $0.7129 on Thursday morning after dovish comments from the central bank governor that suggest another rate cut is possible. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were flat.

Australia is set to release September unemployment data on Thursday.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington remain in view as the US State Department has submitted a proposal for the Trump administration to add China's Ant Group to a trade blacklist, according to two people familiar with the matter, before the financial technology arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba is slated to go public.

Investors are also tracking Brexit talks, as the deadline for a pact on the European Union's relations with Britain nears. EU leaders meeting on Thursday and Friday will tell their Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to step up talks to get a deal by Jan. 1, 2021.

The US dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0.15per cent , after pulling its best day in three weeks on Tuesday, with the euro unchanged at $1.1746.

In a sign that some investors preferred traditionally safer assets for now, the yen gained 0.4per cent to hit a near two-week high of 105.11 against the dollar.

A weaker dollar, which makes oil cheaper for holders of other currencies, supported oil prices.

Brent crude gained 92 cents, or 2.2per cent , to $43.37 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate added 87 cents, or 2.2per cent , to $41.0.

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Published on October 15, 2020
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