Asian Stocks Follow Wall St Higher Amid Virus Uncertainty

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
August 31, 2021 Updated: August 31, 2021

BEIJING—Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday as investors weighed the economic impact of the spread of the coronavirus’s Delta variant and Wall Street ended August with a gain for the seventh straight month.

Shanghai and Hong Kong retreated while Tokyo and South Korea advanced.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 declined 0.1 percent from the previous day’s record but ended August with a 2.9 percent gain.

Investor optimism about stronger U.S. corporate profits and that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low is being tested by data showing the Delta variant is weighing on economic activity.

On Tuesday, a U.S. business group, the Conference Board, reported consumer confidence fell sharply in August. Most of the decline was tied to the Delta variant, which has inundated hospitals with patients.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained less than 0.1 percent to 3,544.95 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 1.2 percent to 28,425.54. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.2 percent to 25,920.16.

The Kospi in Seoul added less than 0.1 percent to 3,200.29 while Sydney’s S&P- ASX 200 shed 0.5 percent to 7,499.10. New Zealand, Singapore, and Bangkok gained while Indonesia declined.

Also Wednesday, a survey found Chinese manufacturing decelerated in August as demand weakened and factories struggled with supply disruptions. The monthly purchasing managers’ index by business magazine Caixin fell to 49.2 from July 50.1 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity growing.

Investors are trying to figure out which industries gain and which will lose as they grapple with supply disruptions, the spread of the more contagious variant of the virus and signs of possible consumer caution.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 lost 6.11 points to 4,522.68. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1 percent to 35,360.73 and the Nasdaq slipped less than 0.1 percent, to 15,259.24.

On Friday, the Labor Department is due to report U.S. employment conditions in August.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose 33 cents to $68.83 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 71 cents on Tuesday to $68.50. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 28 cents to $71.91 per barrel in London. It fell 42 cents the previous session to $72.99.

The dollar rose to 110.21 yen from 110.00 yen. The euro declined to $1.1805 from $1.1812.

By Joe McDonald

The Associated Press
The Associated Press