Asian markets mixed after modest gains on Wall St

By ELAINE KURTENBACH
AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian markets were mixed on Friday after major indexes edged higher on Wall Street, preserving their gains for the week.

Hong Kong and Shanghai fell while Sydney and Seoul advanced. Tokyo was closed for a holiday.

Surges in coronavirus cases around the region are prompting governments to tighten pandemic restrictions that are expected to slow business activity and keep travel to a minimum.

Thailand reported a daily record of 14,575 cases, with 114 deaths, as a stricter set of limits went into effect in many areas. The central bank, meanwhile, has said this latest, worst outbreak could cause the economy to contract by 2% this year, instead of the recovery it had earlier forecast.

The SET in Bangkok edged 0.1% lower. In Seoul, the Kospi was 0.2% higher, while Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1%.

Regional trading was muted, with markets in Japan closed for a holiday ahead of the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 1% to 27,438.68 and the Shanghai Composite index gave up 0.7% to 3,551.55.

The declines came as Bloomberg reported regulators were planning more penalties for ride-sharing giant Didi, whose shares in New York sank 11.3% on Thursday.

Didi’s shares have declined more than 25% since they began trading in New York last month, amid a crackdown by the Chinese government on technology companies.

“Asian equities traded sideways on Friday, mirroring choppy price action on Wall Street overnight,” Anderson Alves of ActivTrades said in a commentary. “However, pandemic concerns continue to weigh on the market.”

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.2% to 4,367.48. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1% to 34,823.35. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.4% to 14,684.60.

All three indexes remain close to the all-time highs they set early last week.

Wall Street’s smallest companies lost ground. The Russell 2000 index fell 1.5%, to 2,199.48.

Gains by Apple, Microsoft and other big technology stocks helped offset declines for banks, energy companies and industrial stocks.

Trading was mostly muted as investors reviewed the latest corporate earnings and a surprise increase in the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits.

Hints about when the Federal Reserve may begin to unwind some of the support that’s helped keep the economy going during the pandemic, now that inflation is on the rise, is expected from a two-day policy making meeting next week.

The Labor Department reported unemployment claims rose last week to 419,000, the most in two months and more than economists were expecting. Economists said it was most likely a blip caused by some one-time factors and partly a result of the inevitable bumpiness in the week-to-week data.

Investors are nervous about the risk that the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19, which is spreading rapidly, might disrupt the recovery from last year’s pandemic shocks.

The 10-year Treasury note’s yield rose to 1.28% from 1.26% Thursday. The benchmark yield has recovered from its low yields earlier in the week, but is still trading at relatively low levels given that the economy is in a recovery.

Homebuilders mostly fell after the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied U.S. homes rose in June after a four-month pullback. The June data also showed the median U.S. home price hit a record high last month, reflecting an increase in sales of higher-end homes, while sales of properties under $150,000 declined.

The sharp rise in home prices, even with mortgage rates near historic lows, has stoked worries that many would-be buyers are priced out of the market. Homebuilder Beazer Homes USA fell 2.9% and D.R. Horton slid 2%.

Company earnings reports are continuing to roll out. Texas Instruments fell 5.3% for the biggest drop in the S&P 500 after its results disappointed investors. The chip maker also gave a weak outlook for the second half of the year.

Union Pacific rose 1.1% after the railroad said its profits jumped 59% from a year earlier, helped by a 22% increase in cargo carried compared with a year earlier. Domino’s Pizza jumped 14.6% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after its results also surpassed estimates.

Intel fell 2.6% in after-market trading after releasing its quarterly results. Twitter also reported its results after the market closed. The social media portal was up 3.7% in extended trading.

In other trading Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 27 cents to $71.64 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It surged $1.61 to $71.91 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international pricing standard, shed 27 cents to $73.52 per barrel.

The dollar rose to 110.29 Japanese yen from 110.14 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1772 from $1.1767.

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