TOKYO – Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday after Wall Street declined as worries about the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic tempered enthusiasm about possible vaccine development.
Benchmarks in Tokyo and Hong Kong declined while Shanghai and Seoul advanced.
Announcements that two developers might be making progress on a coronavirus vaccine has encouraged traders. But rising infection numbers in the United States and Europe has raised the threat of renewed restrictions on business and movement.
“The reality of rising COVID-19 cases got hold of financial markets,” said Mizuho Bank in a report.
Also Wednesday, Japan reported its export decline narrowed to 0.2% over a year earlier in October.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 0.7% to 25,827.23 while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4% to 3,355.06. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong retreated less than 0.1% to 26,383.95.
The Kospi in Seoul was up less than 0.1% at 2,539.20 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 0.3% to 6,515.50.
U.S. data showed retail spending in October was lower than expected.
The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said Tuesday the American economy has a “long way to go” before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Powell warned the “next few months may be very challenging" and said the Fed is committed to supporting a recovery.
Stocks that stormed higher this month on hopes that a vaccine or two may get the global economy back to normal next year receded amid the worries.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 fell 0.5%, from its record, to 3,609.53. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also fell from a record, down 0.6%, to 29,783.35. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.2% to 11,899.34.
Pharmacy stocks were among the biggest decliners after e-commerce Amazon opened an online operation to compete with them. Rite-Aid lost 16.3% and Walgreens Boots Alliance dropped 9.6%. Amazon ticked up 0.1%.
Tesla rose 8.2% following an announcement that it will join the S&P 500 index next month. It is set to become one of the biggest stocks in the index after soaring nearly 390% this year.
Sales at U.S. retailers rose 0.3% last month, a slowdown from September’s 1.6%. The figure also fell short of forecasts for 0.5% growth.
Extra unemployment benefits that helped to support consumer spending have expired and progress on a possible new aid plan in Congress is slow.
“The concern is that people will lose confidence in efforts to control the pandemic," said the Fed's Powell. “We're seeing signs of that already.”
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 28 cents to $41.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 9 cents on Tuesday to $41.43. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, shed 22 cents to $43.53 per barrel in London. It lost 7 cents the previous session to $43.75.
The dollar declined to 104.13 yen from Tuesday's 104.21 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1860 from $1.1864.