TOKYO — Asian shares headed lower Wednesday on worries about rising virus counts and Washington’s inability to deliver more aid to the economy.
The uncertainty surrounding the upcoming U.S. election also has regional market players hesitant to make big moves.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 NIK, -0.28% fell 0.3% in morning trading, while South Korea’s Kospi 180721, +0.61% declined 0.1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.11% gained 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI, -0.31% dipped 0.4%, while the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +0.45% shed 0.1%. Benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, -0.63% and Singapore STI, -0.52% fell, while stocks rose in Malaysia FBMKLCI, -0.46%.
The optimism that the coronavirus pandemic may have been somewhat under control has dissipated as infections continue to rise in Europe, the U.S. and other parts of the world. Few sectors, such as communication and IT services, are gaining amid the outbreaks, deepening the pessimism in Asia.
“Sustained COVID-19 worries keep the risk sentiment in check for Asia, likewise finding the market choosing to err on the side of caution,” said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 SPX, -0.30% fell 0.3% to 3,390.68. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.80% lost 0.8% to 27,463.19. However, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite COMP, +0.63% rose 0.6%, to 11,431.35.
Caution continues to hang over markets. Governments have begun to impose restrictions on businesses and other activities to help curb surging infections. That could choke off improvements seen since the summer. Fresh pandemic precautions are also drawing a public backlash despite spiking levels of illness in European countries.
Investors are clamoring for Congress to deliver another round of stimulus for the U.S. economy, but they’re increasingly acknowledging it won’t happen anytime soon.
But even if a deal were reached, it could wither in the face of resistance from Republicans controlling the Senate. After confirming the latest Supreme Court justice, the Senate is unlikely to return to session until Nov. 9.
Wall Street’s caution is also apparent in how it’s reacting to corporate profit reports. Through the first two weeks of earnings season, companies that reported better results than expected have not been getting the typical pop in their stock price the day after.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude CLZ20, -2.73% lost 91 cents, or 2.3%, to $38.66 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.01 to $39.57 per barrel on Tuesday.
Brent crude BRNZ20, -2.18%, the international standard, fell 79 cents to $40.82 a barrel.
The U.S. dollar USDJPY, -0.21% weakened to 104.30 Japanese yen from 104.41 yen late Tuesday.