Asia-Pacific Shares Mostly Higher; China Launches Anti-Trust Probe into Alibaba

The major Asia Pacific stock indexes finished mostly higher on Thursday with China’s Shanghai Index losing ground in reaction to the news that Chinese regulators will probe tech-giant Alibaba for suspected monopolistic behavior.

According to reports, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said through official online channels it has opened an investigation into Alibaba over monopolistic practices. The news was first reported by Bloomberg, and was announced by Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Elsewhere, South Korea shares hit a record high in its longest rally since mid-2017. Japan shares edged near a 30-year high on recovery hopes and heavy machinery stocks’ gains. Australia shares rose on strong gains in the energy sector.

In the cash market on Thursday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 26668.35, up 143.56 or +0.54%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished at 26386.56, up 43.46 or +0.16 and South Korea’s KOSPI Index closed at 2806.86, up 47.04 or +1.70%.

In China, the Shanghai Index settled at 3363.11, down 19.21 or -0.57% and in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 6664.80, up 21.70 or +0.33%.

China Stocks Dip as Anti-Trust Probe into Alibaba Hits Tech Shares

China stocks inched lower on Thursday, dragged by tech shares after Beijing launched an anti-trust probe into Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group. The probe is part of an accelerating crackdown on monopolistic behavior in China’s booming internet space, and the latest setback for Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Additionally, investor confidence in the tech sector was hit by news that China launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba’s e-commerce and fintech empire.

Spooked investors dumped shares of Alibaba’s subsidiaries and affiliates, as well as other internet firms that risk being targeted by Chinese anti-trust regulators.

South Korea Leads Pre-Christmas Gains Across Asia

South Korean shares hit a record high on Thursday, leading gains for most emerging Asian stock markets in holiday-thinned trading after the country secured deals to import COVID-19 vaccines.

The deals with Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen fueled a nearly 2% rise in Seoul’s KOSPI, adding an eighth straight week of gains, while the won firmed half a percent. South Korean officials signed the deals to import coronavirus vaccines to cover up to 16 million people, as it grapples with the third wave of infections.

Samsung Electronics shares soared 5.3%, after jumping as much as 6.6% to hit a record high earlier in the session. The KOSPI has risen 27.72% so far this year, gaining 11.0% in the previous 30 trading sessions.

Nikkei Edges Near 30-Year High on Recovery Hopes, Heavy Machinery Stocks’ Gains

Japanese shares inched up on Thursday to come within sight of a near three-decade high, as vaccine rollouts buoyed hopes of an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy machinery stocks gained on a policy shift to greener energy.

Rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines are propping up hopes that the economic recovery can gain momentum next year, despite the headwinds from a recently-found more infectious strain and a delay in U.S. pandemic relief package.

Heavy machinery firms gained after Nikkei newspaper reported Japan’s new zero emission strategy would target a massive increase in offshore wind power.

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