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Asian shares waver with coronavirus, corporate earnings in focus

Swati Pandey and John McCrank/Sydney
Filed on July 8, 2020
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. - AP

Asian shares were mostly lower Wednesday as uncertainty over the pandemic sapped the buying enthusiasm that has been driving prices higher.

Asian stocks dithered on Wednesday as an increase in new coronavirus cases in some parts of the world cast doubts over the economic recovery while oil prices eased on oversupply fears.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were a tad lower after hitting a 4-1/2 month high just on Tuesday.

Chinese shares flickered between green and red. Australian shares were down 0.4per cent as were indexes for New Zealand and South Korea. Japan's Nikkei was off 0.1per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was slightly firmer.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 added 0.18 per cent.

Overnight, US stocks fell, halting a five-day winning streak by the benchmark S&P 500 index, its longest this year and driven by better-than-expected economic data.

Following the recent rally, the declines looked like a consolidation, with the markets largely in "wait and see mode" ahead of the upcoming earnings session, said NAB economist Tapas Strickland.

Second-quarter earnings season will begin in earnest from next week.

"It will be important to watch the number of US deaths in coming weeks and whether greater questions will be asked about the extent of necessary restrictions," Strickland added.

California reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a record rise for a single day that also surpassed the number of contact tracers recently trained by the state to detect and prevent potential outbreaks.

Coronavirus cases were also on the rise in the Australian state of Victoria, which led to lockdown measures being reimposed in Melbourne, the country's second-biggest city.

"The second wave of infection will see Victorian economic activity fall sharply and it will continue to lag the rest of Australia," said NAB economist Kaixin Owyong.

Victoria makes up around a quarter of Australian economic activity, she said.

Citi analysts predicted global equities would hang around current levels in twelve months' time.

"We expect bullish and bearish forces to cancel each-other out," they said in a note. "We would not chase markets higher from current levels, but would prefer to wait for the next dip."

Citi has "overweight" positions on US and Emerging Markets equities.

Most major currencies were trapped in a range.

The US dollar was 0.15per cent higher on the Japanese yen at 107.65.

The risk sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars were a shade weaker at $0.6940 and $0.6544, respectively.

The euro was barely changed at $1.1273.

In commodities, gold hovered near a recent 8-1/2 year peak as investors preferred safe-haven assets. Spot gold was last a shade weaker after two straight days of gains at 1,792.5 per ounce.

Brent crude futures fell 8 cents, or 0.2per cent, to $43 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 6 cents, or 0.15per cent, to $40.56 a barrel. - Reuters


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