Asian stocks mostly lower after Wall Street highs

BANGKOK (AP) – Shares were mostly lower in Asia yesterday, where Tokyo advanced while markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai fell sharply.

Fresh news of regulatory moves against Chinese IT and education industry companies pulled shares lower in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

In Japan, preliminary factory and service activity surveys showed a slowdown linked to recent tightening of pandemic precautions due to surging coronavirus cases.

The flash purchasing managers index for the services sector fell to 46.5 in July from 48 in June, on a scale of 1-100 where 50 marks the break between expansion and contraction.

Manufacturing remained in expansion, but fell to 50.5 from 50.7 in June, said the au Jibun Bank survey. It said new export orders declined, possibly reflecting supply bottlenecks. Output fell at the fastest pace in six months.

“Short-term disruption to activity is likely to continue until the latest wave of COVID-19 infections passes and restrictions enacted under the state of emergency laws are lifted,” Usamah Bhatti, economist at IHS Markit, said in a report.

A woman walks past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AP

Nonetheless, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225, tracking Wall Street’s strong finish on Friday, gained one per cent to 27,833.29. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was unchanged at 7,394.30, while the Kospi in Seoul declined 0.9 per cent to 3,240.46.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 3.5 per cent to 26,374.26 after Chinese regulators said they were further tightening restrictions on technology companies, requiring a “rectification” of misleading pop-up windows and other practices by software applications, or apps. The Shanghai Composite index dropped 2.3 per cent to 3,467.44.

On Friday, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all finished with gains of better than one per cent for the week.

They each returned to records after brushing aside the sharp downturn that trimmed 1.6 per cent off the S&P 500 on July 19. The market has rebounded as big companies reported better profits than expected and as investors once again saw any dip in stocks as merely a chance to buy low.

The S&P 500 index climbed one per cent to 4,411.79. The Dow rose 0.7 per cent to 35,061.55 and the Nasdaq composite gained one per cent to 14,836.99.

Despite a rebound in new coronavirus cases, the United States (US) economy has been recovering at a torrid pace, with the question being how much growth will slow in upcoming months and years.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 1.26 per cent yesterday. It has dropped from a perch of roughly 1.75 per cent in late March, reflecting alarm over rising inflation.

With roughly a quarter of all the profit reports in from S&P 500 companies, nearly 90 per cent have topped Wall Street’s already high expectations for the spring.

Companies in the index are on pace to report roughly 74 per cent growth for earnings in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to FactSet. That would be the strongest growth since the economy was exploding out of the Great Recession at the end of 2009.

US benchmark crude oil lost 79 cents to USD71.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 16 cents to USD72.07 on Friday.

Brent crude, the international pricing benchmark, declined 74 cents to USD73.36 per barrel.

The US dollar fell to JPY110.22 from JPY110.51. The euro rose to USD1.1791 from USD1.1776.