Tokyo trading closed for holiday, other Asian indexes mixed

TOKYO (AP) — Major Asian bourses were closed for the New Year’s holidays yesterday while the handful that remained open was mixed.

Australia’s S&P/ASX fell 1.4 per cent to 6,587.10, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3 per cent to 27,231.13. The Shanghai Composite gained 1.2 per cent to 3,455.55. Trading was closed in Tokyo and South Korea.

The Tokyo exchange marked the end of trading for the year Wednesday, with the Nikkei falling 0.5 per cent, and trading will not reopen until Monday next week. Global markets will be closed New Year’s Day today.

Focus has been on the continuing vaccine development around the globe, with China’s Sinopharm becoming the latest to release encouraging study results. Investors are optimistic about more vaccines gaining approval in coming weeks.

“Surely, I am not the only one who had massive doubts, but miraculously, we have about made it over the year-end finishing line in one piece,” said Chief Global Market Strategist Stephen Innes at Axi.

An employee tolls the closing bell during a ceremony of the last trading day at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

On Wall Street, stocks eked out modest gains overnight, keeping the major stock indexes on Wall Street at or near record highs.

Energy and materials companies led the gains. Industrial and financial stocks also had a strong showing. Small-company stocks again outpaced their larger rivals, a sign that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy.

The S&P 500 index rose five points, or 0.1 per cent to 3,732.04. The Dow gained 73.89 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 30,409.56. The Nasdaq composite picked up 19.78 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 12,870. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies climbed 20.63 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 1,979.99.

Ahead of the final day of trading in 2020, the S&P 500 is up 15.5 per cent this year, while the Nasdaq is up 43.4 per cent.

The modest gains came as the effort to develop and distribute vaccines to fight the virus pandemic intensifies. Britain has authorised the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine is considered easier to store and handle than others hitting the market. Earlier in December, both the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) approved a vaccine made by Pfizer.

In energy trading, benchmark US crude slipped seven cents to USD48.33 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 25 cents to USD51.34 a barrel. In currency trading, the US dollar inched down to JPY103.15 from JPY103.33. The euro cost USD1.2294, up from USD1.2260.