Asian shares skid amid virus woes, China-US trade tensions

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Asian shares were mostly lower on Friday in lacklustre trading, as trade tensions between the US and China offset optimism about the more fiscal stimulus for the ailing US economy.

Investors were also awaiting a US report on jobs later Friday for another gauge of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. US shares have been rising as investors also waited for Congress and the White House to reach a hoped-for deal on more aid for the American economy.

Asian benchmarks appeared to be still steeped in worries about the growing number of coronavirus cases in some areas, and the painful impact of lockdowns, especially in Southeast Asia.

The hope is for a smooth recovery as lockdowns ease, but the fear is that global ‘second wave’ risks and rising U.S.-China tensions may throw a spanner at … recovery in the works said Hayaki Narita at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.6% to 22,273.62, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 sank 0.7% to 6,003.20. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.2% lower to 2,338.19. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.8% to 24,492.43, while the Shanghai Composite lost 1.2% to 3,347.36.

Toyota Motor Corp. shares gained nearly 2% in morning trading after Japan’s top automaker reported that it managed to stay in the black in April-June, despite plunging sales.

Nintendo Co stock also climbed, gaining 2.3%, after the Japanese video-game maker reported healthy profits as people stuck at home snatched up game software.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.7%, to 27,386.98 after waffling between smaller gains and losses for much of the day. The Nasdaq composite rose 1%, to 11,108.07 and set another record.

The day’s headline economic report showed that nearly 1.2 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. It would have been an astounding number before the coronavirus pandemic levelled the economy. But it’s a slight slowdown from the prior week’s tally, and it was also not as bad as economists were expecting.

It was also the first drop in jobless claims following two weeks of increases, and economists called it an encouraging step. But the threat of more business closures due to the continuing pandemic means the path remains treacherous.

The price of gold bought as a hedge against uncertainty, rose further, gaining 12.00 to 2,081.40 per ounce.

Benchmark US crude oil dropped 12 cents to 41.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It slipped 24 cents to settle at 41.95 per barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 10 cents to 44.90 a barrel.

The US dollar inched up to 105.56 Japanese yen from 105.53 yen. The euro fell to 1.1840 from 1.1877.

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