Asia-Pacific Shares Finished Mixed; Nikkei Touches 29-year High

The major Asia-Pacific stock indexes finished mixed but mostly higher on Tuesday in a choppy trade as Asian stocks edged cautiously into record territory following Monday’s strong performance by the U.S. benchmarks the previous session. The markets were primarily supported by news of another promising coronavirus vaccine although the reaction was not as spectacular as last Monday’s spike to the upside.

In the cash market on Tuesday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 26014.62, up 107.69 or +0.42%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished at 26394.66, up 12.99 or +0.05% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index closed at 2539.15, down 3.88 or -0.15%.

In China, the Shanghai Index settled at 3339.90, down 7.07 or -0.21% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 6498.20, up 13.90 or +0.21%.

COVID-19 Update

Outbreaks in the United States are still spiking, as the country added 1 million new cases of the virus in under a week. The country has now recorded more than 11 million COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Vaccine Hopes Lift Markets

Asian traders followed Wall Street’s lead from Monday after the U.S. benchmarks rose to record highs after Moderna said preliminary phase three trial data shows its coronavirus vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing COVID-19. Its shares gained 9.6% on the day.

That news came after Pfizer and BioNTech announced last week that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective.

Nikkei Hits 29-year High as Vaccine Optimism Boosts Risk Appetite

Japan’s Nikkei share average closed at a 29-year high on Tuesday as investors cheered news of another potential coronavirus vaccine that re-ignited hopes of a swift global recovery. The benchmark index had closed at a 29-year high on Monday as well after the economy posted its first expansion in four quarters.

Around two-thirds of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange traded higher. The airline sector led gains, climbing 3.96%, with ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines adding 4.16% and 3.72%, respectively.

Nikkei’s heavyweight Fanuc Corp rose nearly 1.5%, helped by upbeat industrial output data from China and the formation of a regional trade bloc comprising 15 Asia-Pacific economies.

South Korea Stocks Reverse Early Gains on Stricter Virus Curbs, Profit-Taking

South Korean shares closed lower on Tuesday, reversing earlier gains as the country tightened coronavirus-related curbs and investors booked profits after a rally in the benchmark index. The won strengthened, while the benchmark bond yield fell. The benchmark KOSPI Index hit a 33-month high on Monday, its tenth session of gains out of eleven.

South Korea decided to strengthen social distancing rules for the greater Seoul area amid spikes in coronavirus cases, as it reported 230 new infections as of Monday midnight. The stricter new curbs hit optimism fueled by Moderna Inc’s vaccine announcement.

In other news, Chip giant Samsung Electronics slipped 0.9% after hitting a record high, while its peer SK Hynix extended gains to a sixth session.

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