Mixed Asian stocks after Wall St recovery with economic optimism

Asian stocks mixed after Wall St rally on economic optimism

Household spending data released Tuesday showed a 6.6% decline in February, with dining, clothing, transport and entertainment falling sharply. Deep worries remain over the pandemic, with medical experts warning Japan to brace for a “fourth wave” of surging infections and deaths related to COVID-19, as the nation has fallen behind the rest of the world in testing and vaccinations.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost early gains and fell 1.3% to finish at 29,696.63. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.8% at 6,885.90. South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.2% to 3,126.72. The Shanghai Composite inched up less than 0.1% to 3,486.22. Hong Kong trading was closed for Easter. Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko, noted a gradual recovery in the Japanese economy had been reflected in the recent “tankan” Bank of Japan survey, which was released last week. He said a rebound was marked in electronics because of households consuming electronics goods, as the pandemic had squelched people’s spending on services. Similar outbreaks have flared in other countries, including India and Thailand.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 1.4% to 4,077.91, another record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 379 points, or 1.2%, to 33,527.19 and the Nasdaq was 1.6% higher, at 13,705.59. The gains came after the U.S. government reported that employers went on a hiring spree in March, adding 916,000 jobs, the most since August.

Traders had a delayed reaction to the encouraging jobs report, which was released on Friday when stock trading was closed. Investors were further encouraged by a report Monday showing that the services sector recorded record growth in March as orders, hiring and prices surged. Both employment and the services industry have been lagging other areas of the economy throughout the recovery. Analysts have said that both need to show signs of growth in order for the recovery to remain on track. In the U.S., the strong rollout of vaccinations is making an eventual return to normal for many people seem clearer and closer. “The jobs report underscored the rebound in the labor market,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. “The only thing that can stymie this rebound, this recovery, will be that COVID-19 launches another wave.”

The gains were broad Monday, with nearly every sector rising. Companies that stand to benefit from a broader reopening of the economy and economic growth also did well. Norwegian Cruise Line jumped 7.2% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 as it seeks permission to restart cruises out of U.S. ports in July with a vaccination requirement for passengers and crew members. Rival Carnival rose 4.8% and Royal Caribbean gained 3.5%. Technology stocks also powered the gains. Apple rose 2.1% and Microsoft gained 2.5%. Tesla surprised investors with a report that vehicle deliveries doubled during the first quarter. Its shares surged 5.1%. In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 80 cents to $59.45 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up $2.80 to $58.65 per barrel on Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 77 cents to $62.92 a barrel.

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