Hong Kong Falls Nearly 3% As Asia Stocks Fall Amid Renewed Uncertainty Over Omicron Covid Strain; Oil Drops 3%
Shares in Asia-Pacific mostly fell on Tuesday afternoon as investors in the region continued to track developments surrounding the omicron variant.
Major markets in the region fell after Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times that he expects existing vaccines to be less effective against the new variant. Bancel told CNBC on Monday that it could take months to develop and ship an omicron specific vaccine.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was among the region’s biggest losers, falling 2.67%. South Korea’s Kospi also declined 2.88%.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 1.63% while the Topix index shed 1.03%.
Mainland Chinese stocks were lower, with the Shanghai composite down about 0.4% while the Shenzhen component fell 0.578%.
Data released Tuesday showed Chinese factory activity unexpectedly growing in November, with China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for November coming in at 50.1. That was above expectations by analysts in a Reuters poll for a reading of 49.6.
PMI readings below 50 represent contraction while those above that level signify expansion. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contraction.
The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia advanced 0.22%.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.95%.
Overnight stateside, the major indexes on Wall Street rose after U.S. President Joe Biden said there’s no need for Covid omicron lockdowns for now. The World Health Organization had said the variant is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk.
The S&P 500 gained 1.32% to 4,655.27 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.88% to 15,782.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 236.60 points to 35,135.94.
Oil prices fall 3%
Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, reversing earlier gains. International benchmark Brent crude futures were down 3.12% to $71.15 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also dropped 3.05% to $67.82 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.049 after rising to around 96.4 recently.
The Japanese yen traded at 113.17 per dollar, as compared with levels around 113.9 seen earlier against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0.7094, still struggling to recover after last week’s drop from above $0.725.