Asian Shares Mixed After Pfizer Vaccine Approval

Asian shares ended mixed on Monday even as risk appetite improved after the U.S. approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use and commenced first shipments of the vaccine to distribution centers across the country. News that Britain and the European Union have agreed to continue Brexit trade talks beyond Sunday’s deadline also boosted sentiment.

Chinese shares ended higher, while Hong Kong shares dropped after China’s market regulator imposed fines of 500,000 yuan each on Alibaba, Tencent-backed China Literature, and Shenzhen Hive Box Technology for their failure to make proper declarations about their past acquisitions for antitrust reviews.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 21.93 points or 0.7 percent to 3,369.12, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 116.35 points or 0.4 percent to 26,389.52.

Japanese shares advanced after the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was approved in the U.S. and the Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey showed that business sentiment improved for the second straight quarter in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index added 79.92 points or 0.3 percent to close at 26,732.44. The broader Topix rose 8.50 points or 0.5 percent to 1,790.52.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group rose 2.2 percent after falling sharply in the previous session on profit taking. Fast Retailing added 0.3 percent.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries climbed 11 percent after the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Australian mining company Fortescue Metals to develop a supply chain of “green” hydrogen.

Australian markets rose after two straight days of losses, as gains by banks and tech stocks offset weakness in the mining sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 17.60 points or 0.3 percent to 6,660.20 and the broader All Ordinaries Index edged up 13.90 points or 0.2 percent to 6,900.30.

The big four banks – Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Westpac – ended higher in a range of 0.4 percent to 1.9 percent.

In the tech sector, Afterpay gained 8.8 percent and WiseTech Global added 0.2 percent, while Appen declined 0.8 percent.

Mining heavyweights Fortescue Metals fell 3.4 percent, Rio Tinto lost 1.8 percent and BHP declined 0.2 percent.

Biotechnology giant CSL dropped 1.7 percent, extending losses after shelving the University of Queensland vaccine project.

Flight Centre Travel Group slid 2.1 percent following news that it has been taken to court by five of its former employees for allegedly being underpaid by the company.

A fresh class action has been filed against Crown Resorts that accuses the casino giant of misleading investors over possible anti-money laundering breaches. However, shares of Crown Resorts added 0.7 percent.

Seoul stocks closed lower amid worries about the surge in coronavirus cases in South Korea. The country’s new COVID-19 cases topped the 1,000 mark for the first time on Sunday and crossed 700 on Monday. The benchmark Kospi retreated 7.86 points or 0.3 percent to 2,762.20.

Automaker Hyundai Motor dipped 0.5 percent and Internet portal giant Naver slid 1.4 percent. Pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics and Celltrion Inc. declined 1 percent each.

New Zealand shares also closed lower after the stock exchange opened late for trading due to technical issues. Data showing that the New Zealand service sector fell into contraction territory in November also weighed on sentiment.

The latest survey from BusinessNZ showed that the services sector in New Zealand slipped into contraction territory in November, with a Performance of Services Index score of 46.7.

The benchmark NZX-50 Index declined 84.13 points or 0.7 percent to close at 12,835.12.

U.S. stocks ended mixed on Friday. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 edged down 0.1 percent.

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