Asian Shares Mixed In Cautious Trading

Asian stocks ended mixed on Monday as new coronavirus cases ticked upward again in the U.S. and China imposed retaliatory sanctions on U.S. and Canadian individuals and entities during the weekend.

Elsewhere in Europe, the European Commission warned that the European Union is at the start of a third wave of the pandemic.

Chinese shares gained ground on economic optimism after data showed annual profits at China’s industrial firms surged in the first two months of 2021.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 16.97 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,435.30, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished marginally higher at 28,338.30.

Japanese shares advanced on optimism over earnings and the economic outlook. The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 207.82 points, or 0.7 percent, to 29,384.52, while the broader Topix closed 0.5 percent higher at 1,993.34. Tech stocks outperformed, with Screen Holdings, Advantest and Tokyo Electron jumping 2-3 percent.

Brokerage Nomura Holdings plunged 16.3 percent after it flagged a potential $2 billion loss at a U.S. subsidiary. Banks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group fell 1.8 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Australian markets fell modestly as U.S. Treasury bond yields sat around one-year highs and the Queensland government announced a three-day lockdown in Greater Brisbane to contain a Covid-19 outbreak. In addition, there were fears that the end of the JobKeeper program on Sunday could lead to huge job losses.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index ended down 24.70 points, or 0.4 percent, at 6,799.50, giving up early gains. The broader All Ordinaries Index dropped 26.70 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,036.40.

Energy stocks saw modest losses as oil prices fell on news the ship blocking the Suez Canal had been freed. Tech stocks Afterpay and Appen lost over 4 percent as bond yields jumped.

Wagering group Tabcorp gave up 2.7 percent after rejecting a $3 billion bid for its Wagering & Media business. Embattled wealth manager AMP tumbled 3.4 percent after a 30-day exclusivity period passed without a deal with Area Management for its private markets business.

On the positive side, miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto rose about 2 percent amid optimism over U.S. infrastructure spending plans expected to be unveiled this week. Iluka Resources surged 6.9 percent and Bluescope added 3.3 percent.

Seoul stocks edged lower as investors adopted a cautious stance amid worsening U.S.-China relations over the human rights issue in Xinjiang and rising coronavirus cases around the world. The benchmark Kospi slipped 4.97 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 3,036.04.

Chipmaker SK Hynix lost 2.2 percent and internet portal operator Naver slumped 2.9 percent. Pharmaceutical giant Celltrion surged 5.3 percent as the European Medicines Agency confirmed that the firm’s drug can be used to treat Covid-19.

New Zealand shares ended slightly higher, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index closing up 19.30 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,368.13. Travel booking software company Serko jumped 3.6 percent to reach a record high after reaching an important milestone in its partnership with

U.S. stocks rallied on Friday as investors factored in improved growth, helped by more stimulus and vaccination efforts.

In economic news, reports on personal income and spending and consumer sentiment painted a mixed picture of the world’s largest economy.

The Dow climbed 1.4 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.7 percent to reach new record closing highs, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1.2 percent.

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