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Asian markets mixed as Wall Street hits new high, but so do COVID-19 cases

BEIJING — Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday after Wall Street hit a high and new daily U.S. coronavirus cases surged to a record.

The Nikkei 225

in Tokyo shed 0.3%. The Hang Seng

in Hong Kong advanced 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite Index

rose 0.8%.

The Kospi

in Seoul declined 0.4% and Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200

was off 0.1% . Stocks rose in Malaysia

but declined in Singapore
while Taiwan

and Indonesia

were little changed.

Wall Street gained Wednesday for its 70th record high of 2021. But optimism was tempered by data showing new U.S. virus cases have risen to an average of 265,000 per day, driven largely by the more contagious omicron variant.

Markets are “hanging onto thin optimism” while health care resources do a “balancing act,” Tan Boon Heng of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index

rose 0.1% to 4,793.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

added 0.2% to 36,488.63. The Nasdaq composite

slipped 0.1% to 15,766.22.

The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of more than 27% in 2021. The benchmark, which also set records on Monday and on Dec. 23, hit more new highs in 2021 than in any year since the 77 in 1954. The Dow set a record in early November.

Investors have been encouraged by stronger corporate profits and advances in vaccine development and virus treatment.

That has been tempered by Federal Reserve’s decision to try to cool U.S. inflation, which is at a nearly four-decade high, by rolling back stimulus that has boosted stock prices.

Trading was lighter as investors closed out positions for the year. Fewer than 3 billion shares traded hands on the New York Stock Exchange compared with a typical daily average of 4.5 billion.

Investor concerns about the omicron variant eased after researchers said it appears to cause less severe symptoms and President Joe Biden avoided announcing travel or other restrictions that might weigh on economic activity.

Still, markets are uncertain about the impact of omicron, which is spreading fast and quickly becoming the dominant variant.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude

rose 38 cents to $76.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract advanced 58 cents to $76.56 on Wednesday. Brent crude
the price basis for international oils, gained 38 cents to $79.59 per barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher the previous session at $79.23.

The dollar

rose to 115.02 yen from Wednesday’s 114.97 yen.


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