Asia stocks fluctuate as virus cases offset vaccine roll-out hopes

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets swung yesterday as hopes that vaccines will soon be rolled out played against concerns over a pick-up in virus cases around the world.

Oil prices were also under pressure ahead of a two-day meeting of major producers, with traders worried that they had still not agreed on an extension of the output cuts that have provided crucial support for most of the year.

World markets have surged this month thanks to breakthroughs on vaccines, while investors have also been cheered by Joe Biden’s United States (US) presidential election win and signs that incumbent Donald Trump will allow a smooth transfer, despite claiming voter fraud. With at least three drugs in the pipeline and approval in some countries said to be just weeks away, there is a general feeling of optimism on trading floors as dealers forecast an economic rebound next year.

“Vaccines offer the promise that the major disruptions of the pandemic will fade from the scene in 2021,” said Axi strategist Stephen Innes. “Economic life will gradually heal; the world will start to move on from all the human suffering that the virus has wrought.”

Indications that a surge in new infections in Europe looks to be slowing were also providing some hope, while Britain and France are preparing to ease some of their lockdown restrictions.

However, Trump’s top infectious disease expert warned of a fresh jump in cases in the coming weeks after millions of Americans ignored scientific advice and travelled around the country last week for Thanksgiving.

Traders at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP