Asian stocks mixed amid US-China feud, economic unease

Beijing: Asian stock markets were mixed on Monday amid US-China tensions and concern a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic might be weakening.

Tokyo declined while Shanghai swung between gains and losses. Hong Kong and Australia advanced.

Wall Street ended last week down after a new diplomatic flare-up between Washington and Beijing and mixed earnings reports.

Global markets have regained most of this year’s losses but forecasters warn the rebound might be too big and too early as virus case numbers rise in the United States and some other economies.

Weak stock prices speak volumes of soured risk appetite amid escalating US-China risks, worsening virus outbreaks and a flagging recovery, said Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank in a report.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 0.5% to 22,629.30 while the Shanghai Composite Index was little-changed at 3,197.47. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.4% to 24,810.18.

The Kospi in Seoul advanced 1.1% to 2,226.56 and Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 was off under 0.1% at 6,022.90. New Zealand lost 0.4% while Singapore and Jakarta advanced.

On Friday, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.6% to 3,215.63. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.7%, to 26,469.89. The Nasdaq composite fell 98.24 points, or 0.9%, to 10,363.18.

Investors were rattled by the latest US-Chinese diplomatic feud. The Trump administration told Beijing last week to close its consulate in Houston. China responded by ordering the closure of the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

That adds to strains over trade, technology, Hong Kong and human rights that have sent relations between the two biggest global economies plunging to their lowest level in decades.

Investors also are worried about a rise in US layoffs as spiking coronavirus infections lead more businesses to shut down. Extra unemployment benefits expire this week. Congress has yet to agree on more economic aid.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude was unchanged at 41.29 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 22 cents on Friday to settle at 41.29. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 8 cents to 43.70 per barrel in London.

The dollar gained to 105.54 yen from Friday’s 105.97. The euro declined to 1.1712 from 1.1766.