Asian shares lower after tech-driven rally on Wall Street

Business

People walk past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. Asian shares are mostly higher in muted trading on Monday, as worries about the pandemic keep optimism in check, despite the rally that closed out last week on Wall Street. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Tuesday as investors awaited the release of Chinese trade data.

An overnight rally on Wall Street, driven mainly by technology companies such as Apple and Amazon, faded amid worries over U.S. economic stimulus and a resurgence of coronavirus caseloads in many countries.

Shares fell in Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul but rose in Sydney. Hong Kong’s market was closed for a typhoon.

Chinese state media reported that exports jumped 10.2% in yuan, or renminbi, terms in September from a year earlier, while imports rose 4.3%, according to the General Administration of Customs. Dollar-based figures were due later in the day.

Traders were keeping an eye on the Chinese currency after the central bank scrapped a requirement for currency traders to post cash deposits, opening the way for more negative speculation on the country’s yuan, which might help to restrain its rise in value.

The change took effect Monday and eliminates a requirement imposed in 2018 for a 20% deposit on yuan trades to discourage speculators.

The recovery of the world’s second biggest economy has been a rare bright spot as investors wait to see if the U.S. Congress will manage to provide further economic aid for Americans and businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. With caseloads in the U.S., Europe and many other countries gaining pace, risks of further disruptions to trade, business and other daily activities are rising in some regions.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1% lower to 23,525.64, while the Shanghai Composite index shed 0.6% to 3,339.76. South Korea’s Kospi also gave up 0.6% to 2,388.96. Shares were mostly lower in Southeast Asia.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.9% to 6,188.50, led by banks’ shares. Strong Chinese demand is good news for Australian exporters, though unconfirmed reports that Beijing is slowing or halting imports of Australian coal have raised concerns over the economic impact of political friction between the two countries.

Wall Street extended its gains Monday from last week’s rally, the market’s best in three months. Investors appeared to largely shrug off the latest signs that Democrats and Republicans are no closer to reaching a deal on more aid for the economy, which remains hobbled by the pandemic.

The S&P 500 rose 1.6% to 3,534.22, with Big Tech stocks, including Apple and Microsoft, powering much of the gains. Their businesses have proven to be practically impervious to the pandemic, unlike most companies that would benefit from a strengthening economy. The S&P 500 is now within 1.4% of its all-time high set Sept. 2.

Investors may be betting that Congress will deliver a more generous aid bill after the Nov. 3 election, should Democrats regain the majority in Congress, as some polls suggest. That could offset the possible drag on corporate profits from higher taxes and tighter regulations from a Democratic-controlled Washington.

“The market is expressing some comfort with Democrats taking the White House and the Senate, if it means that there will be more stimulus,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “But the reality is it’s several months away before anything could get passed.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.9% to 28,837.52. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, gained 2.6%, to 11,876.26.

Apple climbed 6.4% and alone accounted for a quarter of the S&P 500’s rise. The iPhone maker also was the index’s biggest gainer. Amazon rose 4.8%. Both companies have events coming up this week, with Apple expected to unveil its latest batch of iPhones on Tuesday and Amazon holding its Prime Day on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Microsoft also closed higher, rising 2.6%, Facebook added 4.3% and Google’s parent company gained 3.6%.

The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks, which tends to move more with expectations for the economy’s strength than Big Tech companies, picked up 0.7% to 1,649.05.

Investors have been agitating for more stimulus since the expiration of extra unemployment benefits for laid-off workers and other support for the economy approved by Congress earlier this year. Even if Washington can’t deliver the aid soon, some investors are hoping for more help in 2021.

Analysts are forecasting the upcoming earnings reporting season will show another quarter of weaker profits. S&P 500 earnings are expected to be down 20.5% from a year earlier, according to FactSet.

But that’s not as bad as the 31.6% drop that S&P 500 companies reported for the spring quarter. Business activity has since regained some momentum as widespread lockdowns eased across the country.

In energy dealings, U.S. benchmark crude gained 2 cents to $39.45 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.17 to $39.43 per barrel on Monday.

Brent crude also added 2 cents, to $41.74 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar strengthened to 105.37 Japanese yen from 105.34 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1792 from $1.1896.

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AP Business Writers Alex Veiga and Stan Choe, and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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