Asian stock markets are trading mostly lower on Tuesday, following the broadly negative cues from Wall Street overnight, with investors largely staying cautious amid worries about rising number of cases of Omicron variant of the coronavirus and looking ahead to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy on Wednesday. Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Monday.
The Fed is expected to discuss accelerating the pace of tapering its asset purchase program, with reports suggesting the central bank could double the rate to $30 billion per month. The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan are also scheduled to announce their monetary policies this week.
The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high for a number of reasons, the World Health Organization said in a technical brief issued on Sunday, referring to the virus’ potential ability to evade immunity provided by antibodies.
According to reports, the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in more than 60 countries so far. Oxford University said vaccines showed to induce lower levels of protection against Omicron.
The Australian stock market is trading slightly lower on Tuesday, giving up some of the gains in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just below the 7,400 level, following the broadly negative cues from Wall Street overnight, on lower crude oil prices and as traders worry about the coronavirus Omicron variant that is spreading in 60 countries, particularly in the U.K. where it reported the first confirmed death from the swiftly spreading strain.
Concerns are also rising domestically, with New South Wales reporting 804 new cases and one death on Monday, with a total on more than 55 Omicron cases. Victoria also reported 1,189 new cases and six deaths, with about seven suspected Omicron cases.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 6.70 points or 0.09 percent to 7,372.60, after hitting a low of 7,341.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 3.60 points or 0.05 percent to 7,693.90. Australian stocks closed modestly higher on Monday.
Among the major miners, Mineral Resources is adding almost 2 percent and Fortescue Metals is gaining more than 1 percent, while BHP Group and Rio Tinto are edging up 0.4 percent each. OZ Minerals is edging down 0.3 percent.
Oil stocks are lower. Woodside Petroleum and Santos are losing almost 1 percent each, while Beach energy is flat and Origin Energy is edging down 0.2 percent.
Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank is edging down 0.5 percent, Commonwealth Bank is edging down 0.3 percent and ANZ Banking is flat, while Westpac is edging up 0.3 percent.
Among tech stocks, Appen is gaining almost 1 percent, WiseTech Global is adding almost 3 percent and Xero is up almost 2 percent, while Zip is losing almost 1 percent and Afterpay is declining almost 5 percent after its shareholders strongly supported the $39 billion deal to be bought by a U.S. fintech giant Block, Inc. (previously Square, Inc.) in the biggest takeover in Australian history.
Gold miners are mostly higher. Resolute Mining, Gold Road Resources and Northern Star Resources are gaining more than 1 percent each, while Newcrest Mining is edging down 0.5 percent and Evolution Mining is edging down 0.3 percent.
Travel stocks fell on Omicron concerns, with Qantas losing more than 1 percent, Flight Centre declining more than 2 percent, and Corporate Travel Management down almost 2 percent.
Shares in Woolworths are plunging more than 8 percent after the retail giant warned of higher costs in the first half and sees the worst first half in years.
Shares in Nearmap jumped more than 6 percent after it raised full-year revenue guidance.
Mesoblast shares are plummeting more than 15 percent on emerging from a trading halt after the company confirmed biotech giant Novartis will walk away from a planned investment and commercialisation deal worth about US$505 million.
Shares in Virus Health are soaring more than 31 percent after the IVF company received a $607 million takeover offer from BGH Group.
In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.710 on Tuesday.
The Japanese stock market is modestly lower on Tuesday, giving up some of the gains in the previous session, with the benchmark Nikkei index above the 28,500 level, following the broadly negative cues from Wall Street overnight, as traders remain concerned about the pace of the economic recovery from the pandemic as the new coronavirus Omicorn variant spreads to about 40 countries, with some domestic cases as well.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed the morning session at 28,504.15, down 136.34 points or 0.48 percent, after hitting a low of 28,501.10 earlier. Japanese shares closed notably higher on Monday.
Market heavyweight SoftBank Group is flat and Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing is losing almost 2 percent. Among automakers, Honda is gaining almost 1 percent and Toyota is adding more than 2 percent.
In the tech space, Advantest and Tokyo Electron are gaining more than 1 percent each, while Screen Holdings is down almost 1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial are flat, while Mizuho Financial is edging up 0.2 percent.
The major exporters are mostly lower. Panasonic is losing more than 1 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is edging down 0.4 percent, while Canon is edging up 0.2 percent. Sony is flat.
Among the other major losers, Tokyu, M3, ANA Holdings, Casio Computer, NTN, IHI and NSK are all losing almost 2 percent each.
Conversely, Shinsei Bank is gaining more than 4 percent and Tokio Marine Holdings is adding almost 3 percent.
In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the higher 113 yen-range on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is losing 1.2 percent, while New Zealand, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia are lower by between 0.3 and 0.8 percent each. Singapore is bucking the trend and is up 0.1 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks moved notably lower during trading on Monday, giving back ground following the rally seen on Wall Street last week. The major averages all showed significant moves to the downside, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading the drop.
The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 fell to new lows for the session going into the close of trading. The Dow slumped 320.04 points or 0.9 percent to 35,650.95, the Nasdaq plunged 217.32 points or 1.4 percent to 15,413.28 and the S&P 500 tumbled 43.05 points or 0.9 percent to 4,668.97.
The major European markets also showed strong moves to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index closed just below the unchanged line, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.7 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.
Crude oil futures settled lower on Monday on concerns about the outlook for energy demand amid worries about the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for January ended down by $0.38 or 0.5 percent at $71.29 a barrel.
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