Asian stocks follow Wall Street lower on virus anxiety

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower on Thursday as anxiety about the economic fallout from rising coronavirus infections in the United States and Europe clashed with optimism about a possible vaccine.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney retreated.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index lost 1.2% on Wednesday, erasing early gains after Pfizer and BioNTech reported more promising vaccine data. Losses accelerated after New York City said it would close its public schools to in-person learning following a surge in infections there.

“Concerns over the near-term impact of the recent spike in cases overshadowed additional positive developments on the vaccine front,” said Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa of ING in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1% to 3,343.35 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 0.4% to 25,620.28. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.5% to 26,421.02.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was down less than 0.1% at 6,526.40 after the government reported the Australian economy added 178,800 jobs in October, well above forecasts of less than 30,000.

The Kospi in Seoul retreated 0.4% to 2,535.12. New Zealand and Singapore also retreated while Jakarta gained.

Investors are swinging between optimism about vaccine development and unease about economic losses as rising case numbers in the United States and some other countries prompt governments to reimpose business and travel controls.

Newly confirmed U.S. virus cases are running close to 160,000 per day. Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest in months.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was up as much as 0.3% on Wednesday after Pfizer and BioNTech reported data suggesting their potential COVID-19 vaccine may be 95% effective. The companies said they plan to ask U.S. regulators within days to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Even with those encouraging figures, there is no guarantee a vaccine will be approved or, if it is, how long it will take to be widely distributed.

Stocks fell back as traders’ enthusiasm was tempered by fears of growing restrictions on business as U.S. state governors and mayors grudgingly issue mask mandates, limit the size of private and public gatherings, ban indoor restaurant dining, close gyms or restrict the hours and capacity of various businesses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.2% to 29,438.42. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.8% to 11,801.60.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell 31 cents to $41.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 20 cents to $44.14 per barrel in London.

The dollar declined to 103.79 yen from Wednesday’s 103.84 yen. The euro retreated to $1.1848 from $1.1865.

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