Asian stocks mixed on fading U.S. stimulus hopes, virus concerns

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian markets were off to a mixed start on Thursday as hopes of U.S. fiscal stimulus before the presidential election faded and a record number of new coronavirus infections in parts of Europe propelled investors toward safe-havens such as gold.

FILE PHOTO: Photographers take photos near a large screen showing stock prices at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) after market opens in Tokyo, Japan October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Downbeat comments from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that a stimulus deal was unlikely be made before the Nov. 3 vote weighed on fragile investor sentiment.

With COVID-19 cases surging, some European nations are closing schools as authorities braced for a repeat of the nightmare scenario seen earlier this year.

In a mixed Asian open, Australian equities bucked Wall Street declines, opening slightly higher because of “good support” for material and mining stocks, said Michael McCarthy, CMC Markets chief market strategist.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 0.1%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 .AXJO rose 0.6%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 .N225 fell 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures .HSI.HSIc1 were down 0.49%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 EScv1 were flat.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 0.58%, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.66% and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.8%.

Bank of America BAC.N fell 5.3% and Wells Fargo WFC.N, both U.S. banks, tumbled 6% after a disappointing quarterly results.

Gold gained 1% on Wednesday, rebounding from a sharp decline in the previous session, boosted by a weaker U.S. dollar and economic uncertainties.

Spot gold XAU= added 0.5% to $1,900.89 an ounce.

The Australian dollar AUD=D3 slid to a one-week low of $0.7129 on Thursday morning after dovish comments from the central bank governor that suggest another rate cut is possible.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 EScv1 were flat.

Australia is set to release September unemployment data on Thursday.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington remain in view as the U.S. State Department has submitted a proposal for the Trump administration to add China’s Ant Group IPO-ANTG.HK to a trade blacklist, according to two people familiar with the matter, before the financial technology arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba 9988.HK is slated to go public.

Investors are also tracking Brexit talks, as the deadline for a pact on the European Union’s relations with Britain nears. EU leaders meeting on Thursday and Friday will tell their Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to step up talks to get a deal by Jan. 1, 2021.

The U.S. dollar index =USD, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0.15%, after pulling its best day in three weeks on Tuesday, with the euro EUR= unchanged at $1.1746.

In a sign that some investors preferred traditionally safer assets for now, the yen JPY= gained 0.4% to hit a near two-week high of 105.11 against the dollar.

A weaker dollar, which makes oil cheaper for holders of other currencies, supported oil prices.

Brent crude LCOc1 gained 92 cents, or 2.2%, to $43.37 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate CLc1 added 87 cents, or 2.2%, to $41.0.

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