Asian Shares See Muted Gains

Asian stocks ended Thursday’s session on a firm note, although the upside remained limited after two Fed officials said a period of high inflation in the United States could last longer than anticipated.

Chinese shares ended little changed as drug makers retreated on concerns over a plunge in medicine prices. U.S.-China relations also remained on investors’ radar after the Biden administration ordered a ban on U.S. imports of a key solar panel material from a Chinese company over alleged human rights abuses.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index inched up marginally to 3,566.65, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index edged up 65.39 points, or 0.2 percent, to 28,882.46.

Japanese shares ended a choppy session on a flat note, with U.S. inflation worries and uncertainty over domestic corporate earnings keeping underlying sentiment cautious. The Nikkei 225 Index finished marginally higher at 28,875.23, while the broader Topix closed 0.1 percent lower at 1,947.10.

Heavyweight Softbank Group rallied 2.3 percent, while department store operators Takashimaya and Isetan Mitsukoshi dropped 2-3 percent. Mercari shares jumped 8.5 percent after the flea market app operator forecast its first annual net profit.

Eisai added 1.5 percent. Biogen and the Japanese drug maker said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted breakthrough therapy designation to their experimental therapy, lecanemab, for patients with early Alzheimer’s.

Australian markets ended modestly lower as the country’s most populous state of New South Wales reported a double-digit rise in new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 for the third straight day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 23.20 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,275.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 13 points, or 0.2 percent, at 7,539.10.

Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search dropped 1-2 percent despite oil prices climbing to two-year highs on signs of a tightening market.

Westpac Banking Corp gave up 1 percent after the lender said it would retain 100 percent ownership of its New Zealand business. The other three big banks ended down between 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent.

Healthcare stocks fell broadly, with heavyweight CSL losing 2.6 percent. Tech heavyweight Afterpay soared 6.2 percent after the company announced plans to let its U.S. users ‘buy now, pay later’ at 13 major non-partner U.S. merchants.

Supermarket giant Woolworths plunged 11.2 percent after a historic demerger and split. Miners BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto all rose about 1 percent.

Seoul stocks ended at a record high after a measure of consumer sentiment in the country rose for the sixth consecutive month in June to hit the highest point in over three years.

The Kospi closed up 9.91 points, or 0.3 percent, at 3,286.10, logging a third straight day of gains. Chip giants Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix advanced 1.4 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

As inflation pressure grows, there was a need to “normalize” monetary policy, central bank governor Lee Ju-yeol told reporters today.

New Zealand shares swung between gains and losses before ending little changed. The benchmark NZX-50 Index ended marginally higher at 12,586.89, with tourism-related stocks notching solid gains.

U.S. stocks ended little changed in a quiet session overnight after strong manufacturing data and reassurances from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that inflation pressures will be transitory.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.1 percent to a new record closing high, while the Dow slipped 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.1 percent.

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