Asia-Pacific markets advance, Hong Kong leads gains, Covid in focus

A man looks at an electronic board displaying stock information at the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney, Australia on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

Brendon Thorne | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Asia-Pacific markets struggled widely for gains on Monday, with investors keeping tabs on the Covid-19 situation in the region as oil prices fell 3%.

The Australian benchmark ASX 200 failed to hold onto modest gains and finished at 7,538.40. The Australian dollar changed hands at $ 0.7354 against the greenback, rising from a previous level of around $ 0.7326. The Aussie fell from levels above $ 0.7400 following a resurgence in the dollar on Friday thanks to strong data on nonfarm wages.

Australia reported 280 new cases of Covid in a 24-hour period on Sunday, most of them in the populated state of New South Wales. Reports say around 15 million people, or 60% of the country’s population, are under strict lockdown.

In South Korea, the Kospi index slipped 0.3% to 3,260.42. The Kosdaq finished almost flat at 1,060. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index slashed its earlier gains by nearly 1% to trade up 0.37% to 26,275.64.

Mainland Chinese stocks traded higher: the Shanghai composite rose 1.05% to 3,494.63 while the Shenzhen component added 0.77% to 14,941.44.

Elsewhere, Indian stocks traded mostly flat in afternoon trading, while Indonesian stocks fell more than 1%. The Southeast Asian country is currently struggling with a serious Covid epidemic.

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Monday’s session in Asia follows after US employment data on Friday showed hiring increased at its fastest pace in nearly a year in July despite fears over the delta variant of Covid-19 and labor supply issues.

“The market has reacted positively to strong data on nonfarm wages, with a move of risk (not always the case this year),” ANZ Research analysts said in a note Monday morning.

“The strength of the data lends credence to the Fed’s view that the labor market will maintain momentum through the summer, even with concerns about the Delta variant,” the analysts wrote, adding that s ‘There was still a long way to go to reach full employment, Friday’s figures offset some of the pessimism that had built up.

Markets in Japan and Singapore are closed for public holidays.

Chinese export growth unexpectedly slowed in July, while imports also lost momentum. Exports were up 19.3% from a year ago, up from a 32.2% gain in June and against a market forecast of a 20.8% gain, Reuters reported. Imports increased 28.1% from the previous year, less than the market forecast of a 33% increase.

“Extreme weather conditions and local Covid outbreaks have not helped, while supply disruptions have also hampered export business,” said Rodrigo Catril, senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank, in a morning note.

China on Monday released data showing that consumer inflation has slowed slightly, Reuters reported. The consumer price index in July rose 1% from a year ago, up from a gain of 1.1% the month before and below the government’s target of around 3% this year, the newswire said.

The absence of consumer inflationary pressures is “not a barrier to further policy easing, a topic likely to gain more attention if a further economic downturn becomes evident in the inbound data stream,” Catril said. .

Currencies and oil

The US dollar was trading at 92.751 against a basket of its peers at 4:02 p.m. HK / SIN, sliding from an earlier level around 92.921.

Oil prices fell more than 3% on Monday afternoon during trading hours in Asia as sentiment was likely weighed down by a relatively strong dollar and fears that the increase in coronavirus cases would dampen the recovery of the market. fuel demand.

U.S. crude fell 3.49% to $ 65.9 a barrel while the global benchmark Brent fell 3.34% to $ 68.34.

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