Asian Shares Mostly Higher After Wall Street Rally

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Wednesday amid optimism that progress in the development of coronavirus vaccines would hasten the pace of economic recovery and as the formal start of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House eased some of the political uncertainty.

Chinese shares ended lower for the second straight day, while Hong Kong shares rose for the fourth straight session amid optimism about a global economic recovery.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 40.50 points or 1.2 percent to 3,362.33, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index inched up 81.55 points or 0.3 percent to 26,669.75.

Japanese shares again hit multi-year highs but pared sharp gains made earlier in the session following news that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to ask restaurants that serve alcohol to shorten operating hours for three weeks amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Nikkei 225 Index advanced 131.27 points or 0.5 percent to finish at 26,296.86, marking the highest close since May 9, 1991. The broader Topix rose 5.27 points or 0.3 percent to 1,767.67.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group added 0.5 percent and Fast Retailing advanced 0.8 percent.

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, a subsidiary of MS&AD Insurance Group, will invest $350 million in U.S.-based home insurance technology company Hippo Enterprises Inc. Shares of MS&AD Insurance rose 0.8 percent.

Among the major gainers, Nissan Motor gained almost 7 percent, Konica Minolta rose 6.3 percent, and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha climbed 6.0 percent. Conversely, Nichirei Corp. and Kubota Corp. lost 3.6 percent each.

Australian stocks rose for the third straight day, reflecting gains by energy stocks and banks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index added 39.20 points or 0.6 percent to close at 6,683.30 and the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 32.70 points or 0.5 percent at 6,888.20.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank gained 3.0 percent each, while Westpac rose 2.1 percent and Commonwealth Bank added 1.5 percent.

Among energy companies, Woodside Petroleum advanced 3.0 percent, Santos gained 2.7 percent and Oil Search ended up 0.5 percent.

Among the major miners, BHP rose 3.0 percent, Fortescue Metals advanced 2.8 percent and Rio Tinto added 1.1 percent.

Harvey Norman reported a 160 percent surge in consolidated pre-tax profit for the first four months of fiscal 2021, but remained cautious about the outlook. The retailer’s shares slipped 2.6 percent.

Seoul stocks ended a five-day winning streak after rising to an all-time high on Wednesday. The benchmark Kospi declined 16.22 points or 0.6 percent to 2,601.54.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics lost 1.6 percent and SK Hynix dropped 1.4 percent. Chemical maker LG Chem fell 1.4 percent.

New Zealand shares advanced for the third straight session following the gains on Wall Street. The benchmark NZX-50 Index rose 114.60 points or 0.9 percent to close at 12,667.98.

Fletcher Building gained 3.7 percent after the company projected an increase in earnings for the first half of the year and said it expects to resume paying dividends from the end of financial year 2021. Meanwhile, Meridian Energy rose 5.0 percent.

U.S. stocks closed at record highs overnight, reacting to news about the President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House. The recent encouraging updates on the coronavirus vaccine front also continued to aid sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 1.5 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.3 percent and the S&P 500 surged up 1.6 percent.

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