Asian Shares Rise On Economic Optimism

Asian stocks ended broadly higher on Wednesday as a slew of positive regional data helped counter growing concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant and expectations of an accelerated bond purchase rollback in the United States.

Chinese markets advanced on economic optimism after Vice Premier Liu He pledged enhanced support for businesses and said he is expecting a strong 2021.

Investors shrugged off the results of a survey showing the manufacturing sector in China slipped into contraction territory in November.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,576.89, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended up 183.66 points, or 0.8 percent, at 23,658.92.

Japanese shares rose after three straight sessions of sharp losses, as data showed the country’s factory activity grew at the fastest pace in nearly four years in November.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 113.86 points, or 0.4 percent, to 27,935.62, while the broader Topix ended 0.4 percent higher at 1,936.74.

Robot maker Fanuc and air-conditioning maker Daikin Industries jumped around 4.5 percent each. Automakers also gained ground, with Honda Motor and Toyota both rising over 2 percent.

Meanwhile, technology heavyweights lost ground, with SoftBank and M3 falling over 2.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Australian markets hit a two-month low as growing concerns about the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines against the Omicron variant overshadowed better-than-expected Q3 GDP data.

The Australian economy shrank 1.9 percent in the September quarter, significantly better than the anticipated 2.7 percent decline forecast by economists.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 20.10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,235.90, its weakest level since October 6. The index shed 1 percent in early trading as authorities flagged another probable case of the Omicron variant in Sydney. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 29.60 points, or 0.4 percent, at 7,557.80.

Supermarket giants led the losses, with Woolworths and Coles falling 2.4 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto rose between 1.4 percent and 2.4 percent as iron ore futures jumped on optimism over a bout of restocking by China’s steel mills.

Seoul stocks rallied to snap a six-day losing streak after a survey showed the country’s factory activity expanded further in November. The Kospi jumped 60.71 points, or 2.1 percent, to close at 2,899.72 after plunging to the year’s lowest level in the previous session.

Chipmakers topped the gainers list, with Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix surging 4.4 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.

New Zealand shares ended flat with a positive bias after a volatile three days on concerns over inflation and the dangers posed by the Omicron Covid variant.

Synlait Milk jumped as much as 5.6 percent after its annual shareholder meeting, while A2 Milk shares declined 2.3 percent.

U.S. stocks fell sharply overnight after Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said existing Covid-19 vaccines would have trouble countering the Omicron variant.

Markets saw further downside after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said during Congressional testimony that the emergence of Omicron has raised the uncertainty around inflation and that the Fed might end its pandemic-era stimulus sooner than expected.

The Dow and the S&P 500 both fell around 1.9 percent to reach their lowest closing levels in at least a month, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index shed 1.6 percent.

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