Asian shares mixed amid cautious outlook for global economy

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People wearing face masks walk past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange in Hong Kong Monday, April 19, 2021. Asian shares were mixed Monday amid cautious optimism about a global rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

TOKYO – Asian shares were mixed Monday amid cautious optimism about a global rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan's benchmark quickly lost early gains and fell 0.1% to 29,642.79, the first market reaction after a summit by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga with President Joe Biden over the weekend. Suga also spoke with the Pfizer chief executive, asking to ensure a more steady supply of the company's COVID-19 vaccine. Japan has lagged other nations in a vaccine rollout, with barely 1% of its population inoculated so far.

The government measures against COVID-19 infections already in some urban areas, including Tokyo, are being expanded to more parts of Japan, starting Tuesday, but the cities of Tokyo and Osaka are considering strengthening them to a “state of emergency.” Japan has never had a lockdown, and its laws would need to be changed for such action.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4% to 7,093.20, while South Korea's Kospi added 0.4% to 3,212.41. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.4% to 28,856.21. The Shanghai Composite inched down 0.1% to 3,421.96.

Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities, said that although the promised vaccine after Suga's U.S. visit works as a plus for Japan, their agreement to take a stiffer stance on China adds to investor worries because of China's importance for the Japanese economy.

Suga likely had hoped Biden would more forcefully expressed his support for the Tokyo Olympics, set to open in July, despite widespread public worries about the pandemic and opposition to holding the Games. The joint statement refers to the U.S. support for Japan's "efforts to hold a safe and secure" Games.

“The Suga administration has taken a risk in China relations, in accordance to the U.S. request,” Maruyama said.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average ended last week with new highs. The S&P 500 rose 15.05 points, or 0.4%, to 4,185.47, led by gains in companies that rely directly on consumer spending, health care stocks and banks, which benefited from higher Treasury yields.