Asian shares extend losses on US blacklist, spread of virus

AP – Shares retreated in Asia yesterday after the United States (US) included dozens more Chinese companies in a Commerce Department blacklist in another blow to markets already wracked with uncertainty over the pandemic.

The Shanghai Composite index dropped nearly two per cent yesterday and other regional markets also were mostly lower.

The Commerce Department announced it was including 103 entities on a new “Military End User” list, including 58 Chinese and 45 Russian companies.

Such a designation requires special licensing for exports and other sales of designated products to the listed companies to prevent certain technologies from being used by foreign militaries in China, Russia or Venezuela, it said.

Many of the companies are related to aviation and shipbuilding. But the list adds to trade and financial sanctions and other controls that have taken relations between Washington and Beijing to their worst level in decades.

People walk past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index. PHOTO: AP

In a separate move, on Friday the Trump administration blacklisted China’s top chipmaker, limiting Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp’s access to advanced US technology because of its alleged ties to the Chinese military. SMIC denies such ties.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell one per cent to 26,436.39. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng sank 0.8 per cent to 26,097.79. South Korea’s Kospi declined 1.6 per cent to 2,733.68. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gave up 1.1 per cent to 6,599.60. The Shanghai Composite index shed nearly 64 points to 3,356.78.

Meanwhile, news of the new and potentially more infectious strain of the coronavirus has countries restricting travel from the United Kingdom (UK). That has traders worried about the possible economic consequences should it spread to other countries or prove resistant to vaccines being distributed now.

With new uncertainties, “investors appear to be treading more cautiously in Asia this morning, getting more selective and probably waiting for the new mutant virus to be better understood before aggressively diving back into the Airlines, Travel & Leisure vaccinated bandwagon,’’ Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

Stocks, oil prices and Treasury yields fell on Monday, a sign investors are uneasy about the economy. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put London and the southeast of England in a new level of restrictions after scientific advisers warned they had detected the new variant of the coronavirus. There is no evidence that the new strain’s mutations make it more deadly, but it seems to infect more easily than others.

Those developments have diluted any potential boost from the approvel by Congress of a USD900 billion relief effort for the economy that includes USD600 in cash payments for most Americans, extra benefits for laid-off workers and other financial support. The legislation is now awaiting approval by President Donald Trump.

Economists and investors have been clamoring for such aid for months.

On Monday, the S&P 500 fell 1.4 per cent to 3,694.92. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1 per cent to 30,216.45. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1 per cent to 12,742.52. The Russell 2000 small-cap index gained 0.1 per cent to 1,970.33.