Asia shares rise on vaccine hopes, tech rally on Wall St

TOKYO (AP) – Asian shares were mostly higher yesterday on rising hopes for an effective vaccine to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Scientists at Oxford University reported that their experimental coronavirus vaccine prompted a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot in an early trial.

Other projects are under way. A vaccine under development by colleagues of Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert at the National Institutes of Health, and Moderna Inc, will start its final testing around July 27. The 30,000-person study is intended to prove if the shots are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.7 per cent to finish at 22,884.22. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.3 per cent to 2,227.28. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 2.6 per cent to 6,156.30. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.8 per cent to 25,499.26, while the Shanghai Composite was little changed, edging up less than 0.1 per cent higher, to 3,316.28. Shares also rose in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia.

Asian economies have been carrying out a “new-normal” balancing act of opening economies, with people going shopping and eating out, while doing social distancing and wearing masks.

A man wearing a face mask stands next to a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

That’s had mixed results, with cases shooting up recently in Tokyo to triple-digit figures for daily newly confirmed cases. Japan had so far avoided the massive cases and deaths seen in harder hit nations like the United States (US), India, Brazil and parts of Europe. Overnight, US technology and communication stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending led mixed gains on Wall Street, outweighing losses elsewhere in the market.

Amazon led the way higher in the S&P 500 with a 7.9 per cent gain.

Microsoft also helped lift the market, rising 4.3 per cent.

Noble Energy climbed 5.4 per cent after the company agreed to be acquired by Chevron for USD5 billion.

Technology and communications stocks and big e-commerce retailers like Amazon have benefitted this year as the pandemic has forced people to largely stay home and rely increasingly on the Internet for shopping, work and entertainment. Banks, airlines and cruise lines have suffered.

The S&P 500 gained 0.8 per cent to 3,251.84. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was down for most of the day, inched just 0.1 per cent higher, to 26,680.87. The Nasdaq had its best day since the end of April, climbing 2.5 per cent to 10,767.09. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks gave up 0.4 per cent to 1,467.95.

Wall Street is coming off its third straight weekly gain following improvements in hiring, retail sales and other parts of the economy, along with rising hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine.