Asian markets mostly rose on Friday, but traders trod uneasily as they were caught between long-term optimism over a COVID-19 vaccine and the immediate horror of surging virus infections and deaths worldwide.
Trading floors were also battling a similar problem with Washington as the US Department of the Treasury and US Federal Reserve knocked heads over extending lending measures, just as lawmakers prepared to restart stimulus talks.
Breakthroughs on a drug to fight the coronavirus, along with US president-elect Joe Biden’s election win, have fired a rally in global equities this month as investors bet that life could get back to a semblance of normality in the new year.
However, the wind has been taken out of their sails by a stream of desperate figures showing the disease running wild, setting new records in the US and Europe, while spiking in several other countries.
As the northern hemisphere heads into winter, there are also fears that things might only get worse, with governments including in France and England already forced to impose fresh lockdowns.
Major US cities such as New York have put strict containment measures in place and on Thursday California announced a curfew across the vast majority of the state.
Meanwhile, Tokyo has raised its virus alert to the highest level.
“There’s the push-pull of short-term versus long-term, and that’s what investors are looking at right now,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA Bank. “There are some very serious risks in the short term, especially with the lockdowns.”
In Taipei, shares closed slightly lower as the market began to consolidate after stocks were vaulted to a historical high earlier in the week.
While contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) trended lower, buying rotated to other large-cap tech stocks, lending some support to the broader market, dealers said.
The TAIEX ended down 5.99 points, or 0.04 percent, at 13,716.44, after moving between 13,666.07 and 13,726.22. Turnover was NT$217.624 billion (US$7.55 billion).
For the week, the index rose 3.34 percent.
Hong Kong shares edged up on Friday, posting their third consecutive weekly advance, led by consumer and material stocks, tracking Chinese gains on upbeat data and policy support.
At the close of trade, the Hang Seng Index was up 94.57 points or 0.36 percent at 26,451.54. It rose 1.13 percent from a week earlier.
In China, investors turned to materials and machinery companies, looking past recent bond market defaults on brightening hopes for recovery in the world’s largest economy.
The Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.44 percent at 3,377.73 points, posting a weekly increase of 2.04 percent.
In Seoul, the KOSPI was up 0.24 percent at 2,553.5, increasing 2.39 percent from a week earlier.
India’s SENSEX rose 0.65 percent to 43,882.25, up 1.01 percent for the week.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 lost 0.42 percent to close at 25,527.3, but rose 0.56 percent for the week, while the TOPIX rose 0.06 percent to 1,727.39 and was up 1.42 percent for the week.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.12 percent to 6,539.2, but increased 2.09 percent from a week earlier.
Additional reporting by Reuters and CNA, with staff writer
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