Asian markets mixed as Wall Street takes a breather

Evening commuters in Hong Kong on Wednesday.


AFP/Getty Images

TOKYO — Asian shares were mixed Thursday, after Wall Street took a pause from the optimism underlined in a record-setting climb earlier in the week.

A reality check appeared to be setting in amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and a batch of discouraging data on the U.S. economy, including jobless numbers.

U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They will be open for half the day on Friday, closing at 1 p.m. Eastern.

“The cautious mood that had been observed in the U.S. market had transpired to Asia into Thursday with recent euphoria equally running out of steam into midweek,” said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225
NIK,
+0.55%

gained 0.7% in morning trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200
XJO,
-0.42%

slipped 0.3%, but South Korea’s Kospi
180721,
+0.00%

were little changed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng
HSI,
+0.07%

rose 0.1%, while the Shanghai Composite
SHCOMP,
-0.12%

was about flat. Stocks retreated in Singapore
STI,
-0.57%
,
but advanced in Taiwan
Y9999,
+0.55%
,
Malaysia
FBMKLCI,
+0.26%

and Indonesia
JAKIDX,
+0.72%
.

The upbeat mood earlier in the week had been set off by news of the development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

“Investors are still inoculated from iffy data this week, reveling in the vaccine pipeline. Still, they might need to be concerned with more days like this as the virus hits the economy faster than the vaccine roll-out evolves,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to soar around the world, and deaths related to the sickness are still growing, hitting more than 1.4 million people cumulatively worldwide. Worries are growing about its spreading during Thanksgiving in the U.S. In Japan, authorities asked restaurants and bars to close early, and people to refrain from travel.

The S&P 500
SPX,
-0.15%

dropped 0.2% a day after setting an all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.57%

slipped below 30,000, a day after crossing that milestone for the first time. Industrial, energy and health care companies accounted for much of the decline. Technology companies rose, driving the Nasdaq composite
COMP,
+0.47%

to a record high.

The selling followed reports showing the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid jumped last week to the highest level in more than a month. A separate report showed consumer spending posted the weakest gain since April.

“The market overall has reached by most standards what we call overbought conditions, and that typically suggests that the market would need to digest the gains, perhaps pause a bit, and consolidate,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

The S&P 500 fell 5.76 points to 3,629.65. The Dow gave up 173.77 points, or 0.6%, to 29,872.47. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 57.62 points, or 0.5%, to 12,094.40. The index, which is on a three-day winning streak, last hit an all-time high on Sept. 2.

Traders have also been encouraged by signs that the transition of power in the U.S. to President-elect Joe Biden has begun. Wall Street is also welcoming Biden’s selection of former Fed chair Janet Yellen as treasury secretary.

The Commerce Department said U.S. consumer spending, the primary driver of the economy, rose by a sluggish 0.5% in October, the weakest gain since April when the pandemic first erupted. At the same time, the government said that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude
CLF21,
+0.37%

added 15 cents to $45.86 a barrel. Brent crude
BRNF21,
+0.51%
,
the international standard, rose 21 cents to $48.82 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar
USDJPY,
-0.14%

inched down to 104.32 Japanese yen from 104.50 yen.

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