TOKYO – (AP) – Asian stocks were mostly down on Thursday as investors waited for closely watched US jobs for indications of how the recovery from the pandemic is unfolding.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.5% early in the session to 28,660.33, while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.4% to 3,283.57. The Australian S & P / ASX 200 lost 0.4% to 7,285.10. The Shanghai Composite rose nearly 0.1% to 3,594.53. Trade was closed in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the handover of the former British colony to Beijing.
The Bank of Japan’s quarterly “tankan” survey showed continued recovery, with sentiment among major manufacturers remaining largely positive despite the pandemic.
The survey showed an increase to 14 from 5 in the previous quarter, but it was less than expected, according to Robert Carnell, regional head of Asia-Pacific research at ING.
The tankan measures business sentiment by subtracting the number of businesses reporting negative business conditions from those reporting positive.
Carnell and others have said that tankan’s results show that the great recovery leap for the world’s third-largest economy may already be over, meaning that from now on, the rebound will be steady but gradual.
âRisk factors such as the more contagious delta strain of COVID-19 and the US salary report will continue to be monitored,â said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
“While there has been optimism on the vaccine front to curb the delta variant, immunization progress in the region will need to recover significantly to cope with the spreads,” Yeap said.
Concerns remain as Asia lags behind the United States and parts of Europe on immunization and some countries are experiencing their worst epidemics to date.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 edged up 0.1%, bringing its growth over the last three months to 8.2% and 14.4% for the first half.
Stocks rose on optimism that the economy is strengthening and that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low for some time to come.
âThe Fed has kind of kept the proverbial tap on, if you will, with liquidity, so there’s still a pretty significant amount of capital looking for a place to go,â said Randy Frederick, vice-president. president of trading and derivatives at Charles. Schwab.
Investors are awaiting the government’s monthly jobs report due out on Friday.
The S&P 500 Index gained 5.70 points to 4,297.50. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.6% to 34,502.51. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2% to 14,503.95. The technology index hit record highs on Monday and Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index of small business stocks rose 0.1% to 2,310.55.
Industrial, financial and energy companies were among the winners on Wednesday. These gains were brought under control by a decline in technology, communications and real estate values.
Many professional Wall Street investors say stocks may continue to rise from here, but not as much as they did in the first half of the year.
Interest rates remain low, although the Federal Reserve recently indicated that it could start raising rates in about two years. And with the economy continuing to strengthen, proponents say stocks should be allowed to rise even though their prices have climbed faster than corporate earnings and appear expensive by history.
Some are more pessimistic, however, because they fear that several measures of economic growth have already reached their peak.
Barry Bannister, chief equity strategist at Stifel, says growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector likely peaked in March, for example. He sees the recent withdrawal of stimulus in China causing slower growth around the world and helping to bring the S&P 500 down to 3,800 in the second half of the year.
So far this year, energy stocks continue to lead among the 11 sectors of the S&P 500 with a gain of 42.4%. Financials are the second biggest winner, up 24.5%, while real estate companies are up 21.7%. Tech companies, the biggest winners in 2020, are up 13.2%. Utilities lagged the rest of the market in the first half of this year with a gain of 0.8%.
While inflation fears abated for most of the quarter, this helped generate solid gains for tech companies. Tech stocks were the biggest winners on the S&P 500 this quarter, rising 12.9%. The sector is considered a high growth sector of the market, which tends to do better when inflation is low.
In energy trading, benchmark US crude rose 23 cents to $ 73.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 49 cents to $ 73.47 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 19 cents to $ 74.81 a barrel.
In currency trading, the US dollar edged down to 111.09 Japanese yen from 111.11 yen. The euro cost $ 1.1850, compared to $ 1.1855.
AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise, Alex Veiga and Stan Choe contributed.
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