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Global stock markets mixed after Wall St high, coronavirus surge

BEIJING (AP) – Global stock markets were mixed yesterday after Wall Street hit a high and new daily United States (US) coronavirus cases surged to a record.

London and Frankfurt opened lower and Tokyo and Seoul also declined. Shanghai and Hong Kong advanced.

Wall Street futures were higher after the benchmark S&P 500 index on Wednesday hit its 70th record high of 2021.

Optimism was tempered by data showing new US virus cases have risen to an average of 265,000 per day, driven largely by the more contagious Omicron variant.

Markets are “hanging onto thin optimism” while healthcare resources do a “balancing act”, Mizuho Bank’s Tan Boon Heng said in a report.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.1 per cent to 7,411.22 and Frankfurt’s DAX shed less than 0.1 per cent to 15,844.18. The CAC 40 in Paris advanced less than 0.1 per cent to 7,163.96.

On Wall Street, the futures for S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up less than 0.1 per cent.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.1 per cent and the Dow added 0.2 per cent. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1 per cent.

The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of more than 27 per cent in 2021.

A currency trader walks by screens at a foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

The benchmark, which also set records on Monday and on December 23, hit more new highs in 2021 than in any year since the 77 in 1954. The Dow set a record in early November.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 per cent to 3,619.19 after a deputy commerce minister said China’s total trade is forecast to grow 20 per cent in 2021 over a year earlier.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.4 per cent to 28,791.71 while Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.1 per cent to 23,112.01.

The Kospi in Seoul declined 0.5 per cent to 2,977.65 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added less than 0.1 per cent to 7,513.40.

India’s Sensex gained 0.1 per cent to 57,887.26. New Zealand and Bangkok gained while Singapore and Jakarta retreated.

Investors have been encouraged by stronger corporate profits and advances in vaccine development and virus treatment.

That has been tempered by the Federal Reserve’s decision to try to cool US inflation, which is at a nearly four-decade high, by rolling back stimulus that has boosted stock prices.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 was lifted by gains in healthcare, technology and consumer-oriented stocks.

Investor concerns about the Omicron variant eased after researchers said it appears to cause less severe symptoms and President Joe Biden avoided announcing travel or other restrictions that might weigh on economic activity.

Still, markets are uncertain about the impact of Omicron, which is spreading fast and quickly becoming the dominant variant.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 13 cents to USD76.43 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract advanced 58 cents to USD76.56 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, gained 16 cents to USD79.05 per barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher the previous session at USD79.23.

The dollar rose to JPY115.14 from Wednesday’s JPY114.97. The euro declined to USD1.1307 from USD1.1344.