Asian markets advance, as Wall Street’s rally overshadows COVID fears

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TOKYO Asian shares rose Monday as investor sentiment received a big boost from the rally last week on Wall Street, despite worries about the more contagious coronavirus delta variant not only in the region but across the world.

Japans benchmark Nikkei 225 NIK, +1.78% rose 1.7% in morning trading and South Koreas Kospi 180721, +0.97% jumped 1.4%. Australias S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.39% edged up 0.4%. Hong Kongs Hang Seng HSI, +0.82% surged 1.7%, while the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +1.45% added 0.9%. Benchmark indexes in Singapore STI, -0.13%, Taiwan Y9999, +2.45% and Indonesia JAKIDX, +1.12% gained.

Asia markets are set for a steady open, said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore, adding that the central bank in South Korea may the first in the region to raise interest rates amid growing inflationary pressures and a robust export-led economic recovery.

That said, daily new COVID-19 cases are currently at its all-time high and that may dampen some hawkish sentiments going into the meeting.

COVID-19 infections have been rising in parts of Japan, including Tokyo, with some sick people being turned away at hospitals. The government has set up oxygen stations which have beds and oxygen treatment for people waiting to be hospitalized.

Critics have said the government needs to do more to reorganize the overall hospital system, assigning certain facilities for COVID-19 treatment, a move that Japan has yet to take on a significant scale. Much of Japan remains under a government-declared state of emergency, but the measures are limited, such as having restaurants close early or limiting crowd size at stores.

The recent decline in Japanese shares provided an opportunity for bargain hunters. Toyota Motor Corp. 7203, +3.44% shares rose more than 3% in morning trading in Tokyo. Other shares gaining included Nissan Motor Co. 7201, +3.41%, Sony Corp. 6758, +3.58% and Nintendo Co. 7974, +0.29%.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.81% ended the week up 35.87 points, or 0.8%, at 4,441.67. The benchmark index is less than 1% from the all-time high it set on Monday last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.65% added 225.96 points, or 0.7%, to 35,120.08. The Nasdaq composite COMP, +1.19% picked up 172.87 points, or 1.2%, to 14,714.66. The Dow and Nasdaq also posted weekly losses.

Escalating coronavirus infections across the U.S. and around the globe due to the highly contagious delta variant have given traders reason to pause with the market near all-time highs.

The U.S. Federal Reserves annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this week could provide Wall Street with more insight into what the Fed may do about inflation.

Last week, minutes from the most recent Fed meeting showed that officials had discussed reducing the central banks bond-buying program later this year to start winding down some of the emergency measures that were implemented during the pandemic. But they stopped short of setting a firm timeline.

With the delta variant becoming more pervasive, the event will now be held online suggesting that attending central bank officials are cognizant of the rising threat of the current delta strain. Investors will be locked on to the event for any clues to the timing and pace of the taper, as well as the eventual Fed rate hike, Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa, senior economists at ING, wrote in a joint report.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude CLV21, +1.75% gained 48 cents to $62.62 a barrel. Brent crude BRNV21, +1.80%, the international standard, gained 54 cents to $65.72 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar USDJPY, +0.10% rose to 109.86 yen from 109.81 yen.

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