As coronavirus vaccines move closer to distribution, markets have been pushing higher on hopes the pandemic will begin to ease, allowing economies to recover.
A vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, which is already in use in the UK, is on track for a positive review and potential approval in the US within the next week. The Food and Drug Administration will also consider a vaccine developed by Moderna later this month.
The recent surge in coronavirus cases and tighter restrictions on businesses over the last few weeks have again raised the importance of a vaccine for beaten down businesses.
The rollout of vaccines in Asia has been slower. In many countries, outbreaks have waxed and waned as governments seek a balance between pandemic precautions and economic exigency.
The Shanghai Composite index added 0.2 per cent to 3,380.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.5 per cent to 26,364.51 and the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo gave up 0.3 per cent to 26,735.63. In South Korea, the Kospi edged 0.1 per cent lower to 2,754.20.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.6 per cent to 6,687.00 after China’s government has announced additional import taxes on wine from Australia, stepping up pressure on its government amid a bitter diplomatic conflict over the coronavirus, territorial disputes and other irritants.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said an investigation concluded Australia improperly subsidizes wine exports, hurting Chinese producers. It imposed a countervailing tax of 6.3 per cent to 6.4 per cent.
China, Australia’s biggest export market, already has effectively blocked imports of Australian wine by imposing taxes of more than 200 per cent.
Beijing also has blocked imports of Australian beef, wheat and other goods since Australia’s government expressed support for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 index fell 0.8 per cent to 3,672.82, as losses in technology companies outweighed gains in industrial, energy and materials stocks.
The benchmark index is still up 1.4 per cent for the month after climbing to record highs four times in the past two weeks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4 per cent to 30,068.81. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 1.9 per cent to 12,338.95.
The Russell 200 index of small company stocks gave up 0.8 per cent, to 1,902.15. Small company stocks have been outgaining the broader market this month and the Russell 2000 is holding onto a 4.5 per cent advance.
Investors still have an appetite for IPO’s as meal delivery service DoorDash soared 85.8 per cent in its market debut. The company has been one of the beneficiaries of the stay-at-home economy as more people shop and order food from their homes.
More economic damage may be in store over the next few months and investors are still closely watching Washington for any developments on another shot of stimulus for people, businesses and state governments.
Congress is still divided over the size and scope of any new package and the Trump administration has added to the potential plans with a new USD 916 billion proposal.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 0.93 per cent, just below its level of 0.94 per cent late Wednesday.
In other trading, US benchmark crude oil gained 29 cents to USD 45.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 8 cents to USD 45.52 per barrel on Wednesday.
Brent crude, the international standard, added 18 cents to USD 49.04 per barrel.
The dollar strengthened to 104.48 Japanese yen from 104.24 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to USD 1.2093 from USD 1.2083.