Asian markets swing as traders weigh Fed tightening, inflation

Asian shares dip as virus fears linger


Hong Kong: Due to lingering concerns about the impact of Omicron’s coronavirus variants, Asian stock markets opened slightly lower on Monday in light holiday trading.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.22 percent in early trade. Hong Kong was closed for a holiday.

Shanghai was marginally up, while Seoul was slightly down.

The highly transmissible Omicron strain has sent new cases skyrocketing across the globe, with countries reviving lockdowns, major sports leagues cancelling fixtures, and cruise ships returning to port with Covid-infected passengers.

Even in China, where a “zero-Covid” strategy has largely kept infections in check, officials recorded 206 new infections Sunday — a count tiny by worldwide standards, but the country’s biggest such figure in 21 months.

Mizuho Securities stated in a report: “As the year-end holiday begins, the number of trading participants is limited and it is expected that there will be a lack of direction.”

Yoshihiro Ito, senior strategist at Okasan Online Securities, warned that “the sense of caution about the spread of infection (due to Omicron) remains strong”.

Australian and British markets are also closed for holidays.

In trading on the Friday before the Christmas holiday, the market was wobbly amidst the same sluggish trading.

A day earlier on Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended the last session before the long holiday weekend at a fresh record following a raft of mostly decent US economic data.

And a study released Sunday showed consumers were in the mood to spend over the holiday season, with retail sales soaring 8.5 percent over last year.

Online sales were up 11 percent and in-store sales up 8.1 percent between November 1 and Christmas Eve, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse study.

“Consumers splurged throughout the season,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO of Saks Incorporated.

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