Asian stocks fell on Thursday as Covid-19 worries persisted and South Korea became one of the first major Asian economy to start exiting record-low borrowing costs.
Investors also awaited US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell’s remarks at the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole gathering for clues on the timing of a tapering of monetary stimulus.
Chinese shares fell sharply as investors awaited more clarity on regulatory reforms and their impact on the technology sector. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index fell 38.72 points, or 1.09 per cent, to 3,501.66. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 278.26 points, or 1.08 per cent, to finish at 25,415.69.
Japanese shares ended a choppy session on a mixed note as investors eyed the upcoming election of the ruling party. The Nikkei average edged up 17.49 points to settle at 27,742.29, while the broader Topix index ended with a negative bias at 1,935.35.
Airlines gained the most, with Japan Airlines and ANA Holdings climbing 2.9 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively. Central Japan Railway gained 1.3 per cent and East Japan Railway added 1.8 per cent.
Toshiba advanced 1.7 per cent on reports that Western Digital was in advanced talks for a potential 20-billion-dollar stock merger with semiconductor firm Kioxia Holdings Corp, of which Toshiba owns a 40-per-cent stake.
Australian markets ended lower to snap a three-day winning streak, with technology stocks and gold miners pacing the declines. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 40.70 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 7,491.20, as New South Wales state, which includes the country’s most populous city, Sydney, announced a record 1,029 coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours.
The broader All Ordinaries index ended down 39.20 points, or half a per cent, at 7,770.40. Newcrest mining, Northern Star Resources and Regis Resources fell around 3 per cent after bullion prices dropped more than 1 per cent overnight. Meanwhile, shares in Appen fell as much as 21.4 per cent. The machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) firm reported a 35-per-cent slump in its half-year underlying net profit.
Seoul stocks retreated to snap a three-day winning streak as the Bank of Korea delivered its first pandemic-era rate hike to control inflation and household debt. The Kospi average slipped 18.28 points, or 0.58 per cent, to 3,128.53.
Samsung Electronics, Naver and LG Chem all ended down more than 1 per cent.
New Zealand shares fell sharply after a2 Milk reported a nearly 80-per-cent slump in full-year profit. The benchmark NZX-50 index dropped 121.86 points, or 0.93 per cent, to 13,051.62, while a2 Milk shares plummeted 11.3 per cent.
US stocks closed higher overnight amid continued optimism about growth after Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said Covid-19 could be under control by early next year.
Orders for long-lasting goods fell in July due to weakness in transport-related goods, but demand was strong in other parts of the economy, official data showed. The S&P 500 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite both edged up around 0.2 per cent to reach fresh record highs, while the Dow inched up 0.1 per cent.