Asian shares mostly higher as US reports surging virus cases
BANGKOK -- Shares were mostly higher Monday in Asia despite reports that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and worldwide has surged sharply.
Tokyo, Sydney and Shanghai logged modest gains and Hong Kong slipped.
Australian shares got a boost from reports that consumer spending has rebounded more quickly than expected, analysts said.
'However, that partly reflects pent-up demand and the strong support from government initiatives. Employment income has slumped and we only expect spending to return to pre-virus levels next year,' Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said in a report.
Robust availability of funding thanks to massive government and central bank stimulus appears to be offsetting jitters over the pandemic, analysts said.
Prices are already considered relatively high and 'out of whack" with earnings expectations, Mizuho Bank said in a commentary. 'And so, investors may be increasingly nervous about being caught on the wrong side of 'irrational exuberance,' ' it said.
On top of that, the 'sheer speed and amplitude of the equity market rebound ... from the depths of the March sell-off may also counsel some patience rather than haste; prudently pausing to take profits for the quarter," it said.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1% higher to 22,499.32, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.3% to 24,581.34. The Kospi in South Korea slipped 0.1% to 2,138.42, while in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 picked up 0.3% to 5,959.70.
The Shanghai Composite index also added 0.3% to 2,975.57. Shares rose in Taiwan and Singapore but fell in Jakarta.
The World Health Organization on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours. The UN health agency said on Sunday that Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases tallied and the US next at 36,617. India confirmed 15,400 new cases.
The United States also reported more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday and Saturday, with the daily totals their highest since May 1. A large share of the cases are in the South, West and Midwest, where hospitals in some areas are becoming overwhelmed.
Case numbers in South Korea and China appeared to be moderating after recent outbreaks centered in their capitals.
Great uncertainty remains over whether countries that have been relaxing pandemic-fighting restrictions on travel and business might end up re-imposing broader controls that would slow a recovery from the worst global downturn since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
'The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic slows economic recovery could increasingly come into focus. These shifting dynamics are always challenging to equate," Stephen Innes of AxiCorp said in a commentary.
Word that Apple will temporarily close 11 stores as coronavirus cases rise across swaths of the South and West, just weeks after reopening them, helped spur a bout of selling on Wall Street on Friday.
The S&P 500 ended a wobbly day down 0.6% at 3,097.74 after mounting worries about the rising coronavirus infections undercut an early rally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.8% to 25,871.46, while the Nasdaq composite inched up by less than 0.1%, to 9,946.12.
The simultaneous expiration of contracts for stock options and futures, an occasional occurrence that can drive bouts of buying and selling and is known as 'quadruple witching day," added to volatility.
Even if widespread stay-at-home orders don't happen, the fear is that scared shoppers may still shy away from stores and businesses may pull back on their own spending.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was steady Monday at 0.69% after climbing as high as 0.74% on Friday. It tends to move with investors' expectations for the economy and inflation.
A barrel of U.S. crude oil for delivery in July gave up 17 cents to $39.58 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 2.3% to settle at $39.75 on Friday.
Brent crude, the international standard, lost 3 cents to $42.16 per barrel. It gained 1.6% to settle at $42.19 per barrel and the week's end.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar was at 106.89 Japanese yen, up from 106.87 on Friday. The euro rose to $1.1193 from $1.1178.